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Cane-toad leather and Sweet 16 gowns: a rundown of this year’s MFW Fashion Capsules

Images by Albert Comper / Commissioned by Moth Design

Words by Ruby Staley

Mini fashion exhibitions all around the city.

As part of Melbourne’s Fashion Week, mini exhibitions showcasing local textile and art works have popped up around the city.

With the help of Creative Victoria, the MFW Capsules exhibit some of the best local designers and artists that can even be appreciated by even the most fashion-perplexed.

All the Capsules are officially opened from August 29 to September 5, totally free and available to visit as many times as you like.

Melbourne Town Hall hosts the sustainability-focused and interactive capsule that showcases the beauty of repurposing and recycling while championing zero waste production processes.

At Capsule 2, located at Melbourne Visitor’s Hub, find an exhibit of customised denim pieces by creatives from all walks of design including painters, sculptors, weavers, photographers and costume makers. Eight artists and designers teamed up with another eight denim houses including Scanlan Theodore, Denimsmith, Just Jeans, Nudie, First Principles, Martin Grant, Levi’s and Neuw Denim for a unique collaboration.

Alpaca knitwear designer, Lorena Laing, spoke to the experience of collaborating with Nudie Jeans in creating bespoke, upcycled pieces. “I used for 30 pairs of jeans which we stitched together into a continuous strip of yarn, wove with a pure linen fibre and then hand-stitched the garments together,” said Laing.

For the third Capsule, Southbank Promenade hosts a celebration of the design and creativity of Melbourne’s First Nations fashion scene. With a futuristic feel the artists and designers acknowledge their history and culture in high-end fashion.

Featuring pieces from Indigenous textile and fashion designers, the full list includes Lisa Waup in collaboration with Ingrid Verner, Peter Waples Crowe with Vincent Li, Deanne Gilson Lea Oldjohn from Dea & Lea, Aarli, Haus of Dizzy, Alexandra Blak, Grace Lillian Lee and Peter Farmer.

The fourth capsule, named ‘Day Dream’, is located in Collins Square where mannequins have been suspended on tall metal poles wearing the fanciful garments made by some of Melbourne’s infamous made-to-measure designers and milliners. Speaking to your inner child, ensembles are displayed from a great height from independent designers and producers.

Capsule 5 is also in Collins Square. Celebrating Melbourne design veteran, Jason Grech’s 16 years in the industry, the display exhibits three of his iconic designs. Going with a ‘Sweet 16’ theme, pastel toned fabrics suspended high above the atrium cascade onto the gowns themselves. Collaborating with Elizabeth Ricci from Flower Temple, Grech’s garments are complemented by floral pieces featuring Australian natives.

For the final stop on the Fashion Capsule train, we arrive at Southern Cross Railway Station, for a collaboration between artists and designers titled ‘Here Comes the Fun’.

Lia Tabrah, exhibiting under the name Vermin, The Label, uses cane toad leather to create wonderfully, unique accessories. And although it’s not the most traditional type of fashion or design because of the type of leather, the capsules embrace it.

Sourcing her specific leather from Queensland, where toads are considered environmental pests, Tabrah assures she does “all the designing [her]self” and that all the accessories are “hand made in Melbourne”.

Celebrated stylist and curator, Virginia Dowzer, also lent a helping hand on four of the six Fashion Capsules. And after being a part of the MFW festivities for many years, Dowzer comments that what she finds most beautiful about the displays and the shows is the workmanship of the garments.

“What I want people to do, is look and understand that there is a difference between clothing that is mass produced and fashion that produced singularly, independent,” said Dowzer. “These capsules prove that there’s a real difference between fashion, and clothing.”

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