High Risk Dressing / Critical Fashion looked at the ideas and community coalescing within contemporary fashion practice today through the lens of the Fashion Design Council (FDC). The FDC (1983–1993) was a membership-based organisation established to support, promote and provoke avant-garde Australian fashion, founded by Robert Buckingham, Kate Durham and Robert Pearce.
By using the FDC materials housed within the RMIT Design Archives as a leaping off point, the exhibition opened up and queried ideas promoted by the FDC while looking at the relevance of the Council to contemporary practice today.
Rather than looking back with nostalgia at this rich period of fashion practice, Design Hub Gallery was transformed into a ‘set’ for a month-long program of fashion provocations, cross-disciplinary exchange and contemporary venturous practice.
A new ‘collective’ of contemporary fashion practitioners activated the space through a program of fashion presentations, performances, films, publications and residencies.
Three local architecture practices - Sibling Architecture, Studiobird and WOWOWA - were commissioned to produce scenography that referenced the creative, social and promotional spaces central to FDC activities - the Office, the Bar and the Shop. Each studio was asked to design a set that captured the shift outlined in our title: from an emerging, provocative, collaborative creative culture to today’s world of internationally-networked, conceptually-driven contemporary fashion practice.
The FDC collection - including printed matter, video footage and photographs - was unpacked, discussed and catalogued in a new archive space designed by Ziga Testen. In this zone, we drew on critical reflections from original members of the FDC, as well as other designers, musicians and writers associated with the organisation.
Curatorium: Professor Robyn Healy, Dr Fleur Watson, Kate Rhodes, Nella Themelios
Research assistant: Laura Gardner
Fashion Practitioners: Adele Varcoe, Alexandra Deam, Annie Wu, Chorus, D&K, Laura Gardner, Martha Poggioli, Matthew Linde, PAGEANT, S!X, Winnie Ha Mitford
Scenography designers: Sibling Architecture, Studiobird and Caitlyn Parry, WOWOWA and Andre Bonnice
Graphic design: Ziga Testen
Photography: Tobias Titz
RMIT Design Hub Gallery team: Kate Rhodes, Fleur Watson, Nella Themelios, Erik North, Tim McLeod, Gavin Bell, Sam Fagan, Robert Jordan, Chloë Powell, Layla Cluer
Robert Buckingham, Kate Durham, Harriet Edquist, Alasdair MacKinnon, Rickie-Lee Robbie, Michael Trudgeon, RMIT Design Archives, RMIT School of Fashion and Textiles, and all of the FDC practitioners, designers and participants, past and present.
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High Risk Dressing / Critical Fashion: opening night, images courtesy of Tobias Titz