The best fashion exhibitions to explore across Australia this month

Words by Katelin Rice

A rubiks cube of art and fashion.

Like many Fashion Journal readers, I’m itching to attend as many IRL events as possible after what seems like a long siesta. Because so many have experienced repeated and extended delays, we now have a long list we can attend in-person. Adding to that, Melbourne Fashion Festival is now in its final days, and it has blessed us with an extended series of exhibitions as part of its Arts and Ideas program. 

If you’re wanting to revel in the intersection of fashion and art, exhibitions are an ideal setting. For the more cultured among us, I have prepared a shortlist of the best to check out. Bon appétit.

Looking for other events to explore with your own two feet? Head over to Fashion Journal’s Events section for a curated selection.

Becoming You: An Incomplete Guide
Ends Saturday March 20
The Immigration Museum, 400 Flinders Street, Melbourne, VIC

Debuting an immersive exhibition at the Immigration Museum, Becoming You: An Incomplete Guide, presents 71 Australian coming-of-age stories by 72 diverse storytellers. It explores the joys and complexities of identity and growing up, and celebrates life-altering moments. It’s all done through real-life stories, from funny to heart-wrenching, monumental to mundane. It begs the question, does the process of becoming an adult ever really end? 

You can discover the influence fashion has had on contributors including model Andreja Pejic, designer Jenny Bannister, drag queen Karen from Finance, artist Atong Atem and anti-war activists Frances Newell and Michael Hamel-Green

The exhibition is whole-heartedly relatable. Alongside the well-known identities are the surprising, delightful and moving stories of everyday people like you and me, reflecting the diversity of contemporary Australian society. 

More information here

Mary Quant: Fashion Revolutionary
Saturday March 20 – Sunday July 11
Bendigo Art Gallery, 42 View Street, Bendigo, VIC

“It is given to a fortunate few to be born at the right time, in the right place, with the right talents. In recent fashion there are three: Chanel, Dior and Mary Quant,” influential journalist and fashion writer Ernestine Carter once said. 

And now, in the 21st century, in our own backyard, we can marvel over her designs in the flesh. Mary Quant: Fashion Revolution is an exhibition that explores the years between 1955 and 1975, showcasing over 110 of Mary Quant’s garments as well as accessories, cosmetics, sketches, photographs and even Quant’s own line of fashion dolls (known as Daisy Dolls, a rival to Barbie). 

Quant revolutionised the fashion industry with energy, flair and rebellion. This exhibition provides an unrivalled insight into one of Britain’s pioneering fashion designers. 

More information here

Art Talk: Stanislava Pinchuk + The Social Studio
Friday March 19, 5pm – 8pm
Heide Museum of Modern Art, 7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, VIC

Exhibitions typically dig a little deeper than runways. Australian-Ukrainian artist Stanislava Pinchuk (also known as Miso) does just that in an exhibition that showcases her past five years of work, data-mapping the changing topographies of war and conflict zones. 

Personal and provoking, Terra Data explores the illegal invasion of Ukraine’s eastern borders (where she’s from). “It was a huge rift for me, in every way,” she says. “[It was] not something that I ever expected to see in my lifetime, and kind of spurred a practice from me that I never expected to make.”

For this year’s Melbourne Fashion Festival, Stanislava has once again collaborated with not-for-profit social enterprise, The Social Studio, to create three scarves based on terrazzo works featured in Terra Data. It’s a fitting collaboration, as The Social Studio operates as a fashion business (including a clothing label, retail shop and production studio) to offer free training and workshops to young people from refugee and new migrant communities. 

Together, they’ll also be hosting an Art Talk that will see Stanislava interview The Social Studio CEO Dewi Cooke about the capacity of textiles to change the world “for the better, or worse”.  Although Stanislava’s exhibition doesn’t explicitly touch on fashion, the artist says fashion is a huge source of inspiration for her. She’s honoured to be a part of MFF this year and to truly reconnect with people as “MFF feels like such a welcome reunion!”.

More information here

Ends Saturday March 20

Mars Gallery, 7 James Street, Windsor, VIC

Fashion film has undergone a rapid evolution and increased in popularity, as COVID-19 has forced people and brands to innovate (we’ll soon be living all our fashion dreams vicariously online). R3Vision is an exhibition of digital media and film, co-curated by local interdisciplinary artist and curator Brie Trenerry and the once-coined “new queens of experimental fashion film”, Stanton Cornish-Ward and Alexandra Kirwood of Hiball Productions.

Together, they have showcased works from different Australian artists and designers who engage with fashion film and digital presentation, in all different technological forms. The works selected for R3Vision will transport you to what one might call the future of fashion. They use a range of advanced technologies including animation, AR, VR and photogrammetry – fancy. 

As part of the exhibition, its curators have set up a traditional screen and an engineered projector for the Mars rooftop space, while the interactive works will be experienced through personal devices using QR code scans (so, totally, cool). 

More information here

Air Water Love
Ends Thursday April 29, 5pm

China Cultural Centre, 151 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, NSW

Now more than ever, it’s important we have women’s voices in the environmental space. Air Water Love engages audiences in a creative cross-cultural conversation between Australian and Chinese female artists about climate change, the environment and the need to deal with those issues differently. 

In support of International Women’s Day, the exhibition features eight female artists who use painting, photography, video and sculpture as a voice to remind us of the importance of environmental sustainability. And, that the responsibility to care for the planet lies within each of us, individually.  

More information here

The Social Studio Presents: Atong Atem x Romance Was Born
Saturday March 20, 6pm – 8.30pm

Collingwood Yards, 35 Johnston Street, Collingwood, VIC

Immerse yourself in the world of contemporary Australian fashion house Romance Was Born and its collaboration with South Sudanese-Australian artist Atong Atem. Atong’s artwork was born from the pandemic, as she used her time in lockdown to collect natural detritus, scan it and then distort the resulting images to depict a richly-coloured, decaying, natural world. Taking Atong’s works into the fashion space, Romance Was Born has devised a capsule collection emblazoned with the artist’s prints. 

Its designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales partnered with The Social Studio to finalise the artwork, fabric and silhouettes, and bring the collection to life. Together, they are transforming The Social Studio’s Collingwood Yards store into an exhibition space for Atong’s work, while the outdoor and public spaces of the Yards will showcase the Romance Was Born pieces, and draw audiences into elements of the natural world that have inspired Atong’s works.

More information here.

Wearing Art
Wednesday March 17, 6pm – 7.30pm

No Vacancy Gallery, 34-40 Jane Bell Lane, Melbourne, VIC

This month, artist Charlotte Alldis will be showcasing her latest body of work, Twin Flame, at Melbourne’s No Vacancy Gallery. And while it’s not strictly a fashion exhibition, a panel discussion hosted in the space will connect the dots for eager attendees. 

Ever wondered about the artist/designer collaboration process? The panel of female creatives will delve into the process, from concept development to marketing and IP. Join Kristy Barber (Kuwaii), Ema Hewitt (Hew), Lois Hazel (Lois Hazel), Bianca O’Neill, (Fashion Journal’s Senior Industry Columnist) and artist Charlotte Alldis as they discuss their knowledge and share their experiences with one another.

Kristy and Charlotte first collaborated in 2019, using Charlotte’s paintings as prints across Kuwaii’s designs. “My art began to intersect with the fashion realm when Kuwaii approached me. Before this point, I had never considered that my art would be wearable or that my practice would transfer into fashion necessarily,” says Charlotte. 

With the success of their first collaboration, they have since worked on an upcoming season together. Charlotte says she loves seeing interesting and bright prints that people wear, “so it’s really special when I am walking down the street and I spot someone flaunting my painting on a Kuwaii garment.” 

Her paintings of bright, stretching limbs, long eyelashes and the interactions between human figures and psychedelic flowers, form Twin Flame. This collection will be sprawled across No Vacancy Gallery and form the backdrop to the panel discussion. “Twin Flame is a body of works I created to celebrate people that feel like home. I was inspired when I, like many other people last year, sat with myself more than I ever had and felt deeply appreciative about the community of support I had surrounded myself with,” says Charlotte.  

That support extends into the collaboration between practices and industries. “I think the most exciting thing in the art world is when we work together,” says Charlotte. Between the expertise of the panellists, the event will highlight interesting perspectives on wearing art, being a part of the fashion and design industry, and how they all go about collaborating with others. 

More information here.

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