Fashion shows

Cult-Couture Fashion Award 2009

Villa Maria Cult-Couture Awards 2009 had its ups and downs and confused us with its odd French theme – Les Mis in Manukau? – but it did provide a forum for up and coming designers, some more creative than others…

Awards shows are a great way for designers to gain experience and acclaim and of course, to win prizes to further their career. They’ve been a pretty major part of the New Zealand fashion industry for launching young and not-so-young designers onto the stage, literally and metaphorically.

So what award shows are there in NZ, years after the iconic Benson and Hedges Awards (then the "Smokefree Awards", when cigarette advertising was banned from TV) have ended? We haven’t heard about the Deutz Awards for a couple of years. Options for budding designers at a national level now include the Young Designer Awards (for school students only), tertiary institution graduate shows (open to their own graduates), the new Peroni Fashion Design Competition, Miromoda (for Maori designers), Westfield Style Pasifika, World of WearableArt awards, and many more regional awards.

We attended the Villa Maria Cult-Couture Awards 2009 on Saturday 7th November. It had its ups and downs with technical issues – notably a computer message appearing throughout the night on the projected backdrop – and confused us with its odd French theme – Les Mis in Manukau? – but it did provide a forum for up and coming designers, some more creative than others.

The annual Cult-Couture awards is a showcase of NZ design that falls somewhere between the other New Zealand fashion shows; not actually fashion or wearable art but perhaps most similar to Style Pasifika, with its categories with cultural entertainment between each. It’s the jewel in the crown of the Manukau Festival of the Arts which also has drama and fine arts well worth checking out in November each year.

Below: It’s not every day you hear Britney Spears’ "Toxic" sung by a 4m high woman on a giant cone.

What worked well?

A fantastic female trio of hip-hop dancers with high energy and amazing rhythm were clear crowd favourites. It is always great to see designers’ talent honoured and the judges (who oddly weren’t mentioned or thanked) Murray Bevan of PR agency Showroom 22, Rachael Churchward of Black magazine, and fashion designer Adrian Hailwood, choose very well. The models all looked fantastic, and used loads more personality than at a normal fashion show; interacting with their garments by putting hands into bags and swirling any hanging bits in the air. The hair, done by students of Cut Above Academy, was a stand-out.

What didn’t work well?
The French theme didn’t seem right compared to the fabulous themes of years past celebrating Pacific culture. It took 30 minutes to start the runway walks, and the opening song of dancers just standing still was a low energy as an opener whilst an operatic singer sung a number from Les Miserables. Then, a 4 metre-high singer on a conical platform performed Lady Marmalade and a narrator in Louis XIV stage makeup – speaking about the regeneration of the burning city – had the audience wondering when it would start. It was high concept performance art but sadly seemed to have most of the audience, there for fashion, entertainment and to support the whanau, confused.

Below: ballet dancers in a museum of Greco-Roman statues open the Formally Yours section and a singer performs "Back to Reality" opens the Obviously Organic section.

Some of our favourites on the night…

Jade Smythe’s twisted leather (sadly Jade’s outfit was attributed to another designer on the projection screens, she told us)

Below: "Alice" designed by Yue Hui Ma and Natasha Johnston with a beautiful origami bodice, in the Recycled Revolution category.

"Pacific Pastel Pleats" designed by Bianca Paulus, with its peach and turquoise pleated voluminous sleeves and cone hat, won her the Formally Yours prize.

"1980s Candy Media" was runner-up of Recycled Revolution, designed by Jesame Matara.

Kiri Nathan won Matrimonial Bliss (the wedding section aptly sponsored by Solicitors firm, Meredith Connell) with her cream bridal gown entitled "Ma Whero Vintage."

"Mary Kay" was runner-up in Matrimonial Bliss, designed by Yu-Ting Wang.

"Magic Mountain Mod" designed by Helen Anstis won the Obviously Organic section, inspired by the snow and sculptural elements of her trip to Mt Cook.

Hooded red satin dress

Flight of Fantasy winners Maxine Woolridge and Kristin Leitch entry, "The Toy Collector."

A crochet tablecloth reworked into a stunning dress

Ruffles and button detailing.

Visesio Louis Thomsen, last year’s premier winner, was runner-up of Obviously Organic and winner of the Manukau Designer Awards (for local residents) with "Lava Princess."

Below, Linda LePou accepting her grand prize, the Villa Maria Estate Premier Award for Outstanding Innovation for her entry"Eco Chic" from presenter Karen Fistovich of Villa Maria Estate.

Children watching the show. Next gen designers, perhaps?

Megan Robinson, 11 November 2009
Photographs Daniel Merrill


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