Australian politics, society & culture

Fashion Masterpiece

Romance Was Born - ‘The Oracle’, 2011

Clare Press

Short read300 words
 
October 2011
Art Gallery of NSW - 24 September 2011 to 5 February 2012
Meeting Mary Finsterer
Girls’s 'Father, Son, Holy Ghost'
Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter and Anh Hung Tran’s Norwegian Wood
Meeting Andrew Fraser
John Bell’s 'On Shakespeare'
Alice Neel and Louise Bourgeois
A Correspondence with Clive James
Meeting Meow Meow

‘The Oracle’, the fifth major show by two Sydney-based iconoclasts, initially had Australian Vogue decrying the absence of the “madcap prop styling, the fireworks, the pizzazz” for which the designers, Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales, have become known. (Their first show opened with dancing ‘God’ in a bikini and closed with a pantomime goat sacrifice and the designers emerging from teepees.)

But although the twenty-eighth exit was a ‘bride’ of cascading crocheted wool ‘feathers’ inspired by The Neverending Story’s luck-dragon Falkor, it was clear ‘The Oracle’ marked a pivotal moment in the story of this truly original outfit. Bride aside, the art had finally turned wearable beyond the theatrical costumes shown by the label in seasons past.

The show, accompanied by the rousing voices of the Australian Youth Choir, melded influences from Erté’s illustration, Art Deco jewellery design and modern painting with the designers’ signature heavy embellishment firmly rooted in craft (Sales’s mother crochets the showpieces). All this was tied together by the visceral, graffiti-like sprawl of artist Nell’s prints and punkish handpainted silks. Somehow these disparate influences came together to make the most eloquent statement about what fashion – by way of expression, adornment, role-play and fantasy – can do for the wearer.

—Clare Press