Think about the most stressful event you’ve ever held. Then times that pressure by, oh I dunno, 400-fold. And there you have it: a fashion show.
At least a wedding can take all day, and is generally followed by a damn good party. But a fashion show, swoosh . . . blink and it’s over. In Dion Lee’s case this afternoon at the Sydney Opera House, it was a reasonably long blink – 14 minutes, 44 exits, both men’s and womenswear combined on the runway. But still. Months of preparation, 650 guests, a hundred-strong team on site, three media rises, shed-loads of money – all this for a few fleeting moments.
They’d better be good.
On Sunday afternoon, Lee had the honour of opening the 21st Australian Fashion Week - the second since its rebrand as the Resort collections last year.
In partnership with the week’s naming sponsor Mercedes-Benz, and the swankiest venue in town (those iconic sails!), Lee pulled out the big guns. Screwing up was not an option.
Not that Lee, in the design sense, was ever likely to do that. He is rightly celebrated as one of our most credible creative talents, a man who knows his customer (It girl influencers, sleek socialites, leggy PR girls) and is a masterful cutter – his silhouettes flatter the beautiful body like no other.
Now a regular on the New York fashion week schedule, his collections are stocked in prestigious international stores like Selfridges in London and Net-A-Porter. No one expected Lee, back on home turf, to drop the design ball today.
But what if his show were a washout? What then? Cranky bedraggle fashionistas, that’s what. And disappointing Instagram pictures.
This morning Sydney CBD was deluged with rain. Dark clouds gathered over the Harbour and hung around all day. The water was grey and choppy. There was an ill wind. The runway and seating? Open to the elements. No shelter. Gah!
At the 11th hour, Lee’s team rejected Plan B, which would have seen the show shifted inside the iconic Sydney building but without the spectacular rigging and set-up. Smaller. More modest. A compromise. Computer says no.
Guests received an email four hours before show-time advising: “Please note the show will go ahead regardless of wet weather.”
What did organisers do to mitigate against disaster? “A rain dance,” confides one of the team.
The Heavens, it seems, are on Dion Lee’s side. The rain held off. The bruised clouds added to the drama, augmented perfectly by the rather ominous soundtrack. No sunny, happy-go-lucky fashion vision of Sydney, this. Instead, a brave modernist take on Australiana fit for the future.
Accessorised by Akubra hats and R.M. Williams boots, Lee’s signature Aussie sexiness (he made his name with body-con neoprene) is still here, but these days it’s all grown up. Think: a fluid asymmetric strapless top, in blood red satin cut like a gash straight across the bust line. Or the flash of a girl’s tanned skin, naked beneath a boy’s suit jacket. Spiralling shirting and sculptural perforations.
International buyers fetching up on our shores for the first time expecting smiling beach babes will have to wait till the swim shows happen later in the week – the forecast for Wednesday is sunny.