30 October 2018

Behind the seams at FASHFEST 2018

| Wendy Johnson
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Megan Cannings Designs: Gown created with 150 metres of fabulous tulle. Photo: wearefoundau for The RiotACT.

When the gorgeous models, in gorgeous gowns, slowly made their way down a massive escalator in the foyer of the National Gallery of Australia at FASHFEST on Friday (19 October), there was one event team member holding her breath—and a pair of scissors.

That team member was fully focusing on the flow of the gowns on the moving escalator knowing that if one got caught, a red ‘stop’ button would be pushed and the gown in question likely cut, so the fashion show could continue.

No gown got caught. The models nailed it. The guest experience wasn’t interrupted.

Hajar Gala Couture. Photo: wearefoundau for The RiotACT.

Risk management—behind the seams of course—is a big part of any serious fashion event.

“We knew the gowns on moving escalators would create real ‘wow-factor’,” says Andrea Hutchinson, who co-founded FASHFEST with her husband Clint and who is the show’s Model Director. “With all the variables, we decided to only source the best runway models from the top three agencies in Canberra. We needed confident models with the depth of experience needed to manoeuvre the expensive and expansive gowns onto the escalator, off the escalator and then—after walking the runway—back up, and all with minimal rehearsal time.”

How nerve-wracking was the planning? Consider this. One of the gowns, by Megan Cannings Designs, was created with 150 metres of tulle. Megan is famous for showstopper gowns. This is her third runway appearance at FASHFEST and last year one of her gowns was made with 80 metres of chiffon featuring cherry blossoms.

Megan Cannings Designs: 35 metres of Georgette. Image: Dough Hall, Studio Vita.

With the mega tulle gown and a pink one Megan made this year with 35 metres of Georgette, a FASHFEST team member followed the model onto the escalators, hiking the fabric up, kneeling down behind the model so as not to be seen. The team member then quickly but gently let the fabric down when the model was safely off the moving treads and disappeared off the side.

Clint Hutchinson says that if a gown got caught, the escalators would not have started again. “In this case,” says Clint, “the models would have walked up and down the treads. We had trialled the idea of using the towering escalators when we did a pop-up last year at the NGA for the Hyper Real exhibition. The gowns weren’t as long or massive, but that event got our creative juices flowing.”

Other bridal and evening gowns, such as those Hajar Gala Couture presented at FASHFEST, were also safe. These gowns take Hajar weeks, if not months, to create and are worth thousands. They combine art and fashion and there isn’t a stitch out of place on any of them. Hajar’s work is inspired by the grand couturiers of the past and each piece is designed and crafted as a timeless treasure. Many are laden with beadwork, jewels, pearls and other embellishments.

“Some gowns could be quite heavy for models to manage, which is another reason we selected only those who had the necessary experience,” says Andrea.

Hajar Gala Couture. Photo: wearefoundau for The RiotACT.

The third designer of the night, Charly Thorn from Cooma, showcased her new collection of sexy, silk and wool evening wear in between the other two designers. Her long dresses, including the striking black and white print one worn by legendary model Anneliese Seubert, were also safe.

The NGA formed a magnificent backdrop for the show with the professional photography team, led by Leighton Hutchinson, capturing every moment.

“We’re keen on showcasing national cultural institutions this year,” says Clint. “They’re unique to the capital and beautiful buildings in their own right. It’s amazing to see such fabulous fashion in them.”

Legendary model Anneliese Seubert, modelling for Charly Thorn, at FASHFEST. Photo: wearefoundau for The RiotACT.

The models, from Devojka Models, Victoria’s Models, and HAUS Models, felt like princesses in the gowns, which is just what FASHFEST wanted.

FASHFEST is changing it up this year, with a new format and new venues. The team is off and running with the next main event, which will be held in December.

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