Collection du Mal
Collection du Mal. Meaning ‘Collection of evil’.
For this very exciting and terrifying moment in my career I had my ultimate girl gang/femme squad by my side. My ‘Femmes du Mal’ meaning ‘Females of Evil’. I have since gotten these words tattooed on my knees for these inspiring, fierce and painfully talented women whom I get to call both colleagues and family.
Once again joined by Dee + Kat of Duende Co_, one of my first thoughts for this runway was to have my vagina moulded into a candle – which they of course made happen. We named her the ‘Queen Labia du Mal’. At this time Kate Fox, graphics, logos + set design extraordinaire, had a client she was working with to launch her perfume brand. So we collaborated with Daphne Camf on ‘Scent du Mal’ which we infused the ‘Queen Labia du Mal’ candles with, infused the gaol with (I will get back to that point)… and sold separately as a perfume. This show was filled with some really exciting collaborations with other Melbourne artists. I think it’s one of my favourite parts of putting something like this together – finding artists to set the scene & really take the crowd on a powerful journey… which is beyond a collection of garments.
Collection du Mal was inspired by ‘Les Fleurs du Mal’ (The Flowers of Evil) a volume of French poetry written by Charles Baudelaire. First published in 1857 the poems dealt with themes relating to decadence and eroticism, sex and death, and were considered particularly scandalous for the period. The poems touched on lesbianism, sacred and profane love, metamorphosis, melancholy, corruption, lost innocence, the oppressiveness of living, and wine… lots of wine. Baudelaire’s description of scent is so tangible, it was another reason we felt the element of fragrance and smell at the event would be particularly evocative. Especially given that smell is often used to evoke feelings of nostalgia and past intimacy.
While some poems were described as masterpieces, others were criticised to the point of legal action being taken to suppress them. The charge was described as ‘creating an offence against public morals’. Baudelaire, his publisher and the printer were all fined, but escaped prison time, and six poems were suppressed, and published at a later time when the offensive themes weren’t deemed as evil to the point of being criminal anymore.
This is where the themes of this collection come from. It became very much about giving a voice to people whose voices had been suppressed, and whose lifestyles, sexuality, gender and choices made them viewed by society evil or even criminal. It was about exploring what is evil? Who decides what is evil? There was a moment I time when being queer was viewed as criminal, in some parts of the world it still remains a punishable crime.
We decided to hold the runway in the Old Melbourne Gaol. A historical building which housed and suppressed many people for crimes they may or may not have committed, as well as crimes that potentially shouldn’t be classified as such. A gaol is a building of confinement and mistreatment, a corruption of understanding of individuals, not to disregard that many of them were living their own darkness in that time.
I cast the runway based on people’s connection to these themes of suppression. People who had experienced suppression and judgement first hand because of their gender, lifestyle, sexuality, physical appearance, their culture and heritage. The stories, experiences and the judgement some of these individuals had had to endure, and continued to endure, was painfully heartbreaking and at the same time incredibly inspiring with how they had come into their own empowerment. All because of something about them that society, the one’s in power and the church had deemed evil, wrong and criminal.
There was symbolism between the gaol location & my casting process in that there were probably a lot of radicals who were subjected to incarceration, the crux of society, the ones kept out of society. Each of these models, all artists, collaborators and the members of my core team represented those radicals and they are all part of a movement. A movement I feel extremely passionate about. I wanted them each to have that moment of reclamation at some point during the lead up to the event, or during the event, or both. That realisation that each and every one of them is that rebel, that radical, that game changer. That they are standing with them and they were walking for them, performing for them, creating for them.
The idea was to have the runway start in the prison cells on the top level of the prison. Models would make their way around that top level – their shadows glowed like ghosts haunting the walls & the roof of the building that had judged them, suppressed them and imprisoned them.
Once they hit the ground level of the prison they walked straight up the centre and straight out to do a final walk down the exterior of the prison – representing freedom. Freedom from judgement, censorship, their past, things that they come up against that they continue to come up against.
Du Mal was definitely once again about empowerment, resonating the themes of self-awareness, self-worth and self-vision and executing that power in every step.
Once again, music was incredibly important – I selected the musicians for the same qualities I cast the models. I opened the runway with Jelena of Outright screaming a Bikini Kill song as she walked the runway from inside to outside the prison gates. Mel Wonder composed a haunting original piano piece which opened and closed the runway. Bitumen is a 4 piece post punk/industrial band lead by true female powerhouse.
The collaborations went from musicians to a perfumer, to having a chef on board to create ‘du Mal’ inspired canapés for the VIP’s, the florists xxflos joined forces with Shahn Stewart, not to mention photographers, musicians, film makers, set designers, stylists, hair and make-up artists, lighting designers and our incredible volunteers. As these events get bigger it’s truly incredible the people I meet & get to work with along the way. It’s half of the reason each collection is so much more than a group of garments. There is a very real story, message and experience attached to each collection. I couldn’t create garments which weren’t telling a story or embedded with a message and intention.
The colour palette started with the heavy darkness of black, this moved into a blood red story, which I’d describe as a militant sexy death, then innocent baby blues which I felt had a childlike nostalgia to them… and finally to nudes & flesh colours and a total acceptance, a freedom and pleasurable exposure of human flesh.
The garments invoked the sensuality of lingerie with silk and slip dresses hold on by chain straps that hung long & wrapped around the neck. Like cold, hard, heavy restraints.
Lingerie as outerwear.
Unapologetic possible exposure of the legs, hip bones and nipples via generous side seam splits, unconventional cut outs, mesh tailored suits and gowns with carefully placed embroidery.
‘Les fleurs du Mal’ embroidered across the crotch of nude mesh tailored pants
Oversized weighted biker jacket’s
Heavy pleated leather dresses + half skirts and pleated cut out silks, exposing parts of the body and then engulfing other body parts
Printed leather and silk.
A real play on soft vs hard,
the weight of the life vs the lightness of life represented in the weight of fabric,
the layers of fabric, layers of pleats folding into each other, the layers of our life and our experiences – and those layers folding into each other to make us who we are.
Human flesh, embedding human flesh and the human spirit.
A focus on exploring tailoring in latex work.
Garment archetypes that aren’t often explored in latex. Embroiding latex with large velvet cut-outs as saving the embroidery for silks + mesh.
The embroidery design started as a sketch of rose with the stems turning into a female body – the female body being so powerful that it is often thought of as being the root of evil.
Because of temptation
This single image grew into a whole garden of evil, a whole garden bed filled with the flowers that you deemed of evil…
“With my polished Verses as a trellis of pure metal
Studded cunningly with rhymes of crystal,
I shall make for your head an immense Crown,
And from my Jealousy, O mortal Madonna,
I shall know how to cut a cloak in a fashion,
Barbaric, heavy, and stiff, lined with suspicion,
Which, like a sentry-box, will enclose your charms;
Embroidered not with Pearls, but with all of my Tears!
Your Gown will be my Desire, quivering,
Undulant, my Desire which rises and which falls,
Balances on the crests, reposes in the troughs,
And clothes with a kiss your white and rose body.
Of my Self-respect I shall make you Slippers
Of satin which, humbled by your divine feet,
Will imprison them in a gentle embrace,
And assume their form like a faithful mold;
If I can’t, in spite of all my painstaking art,
Carve a Moon of silver for your Pedestal,
I shall put the Serpent which is eating my heart
Under your heels, so that you may trample and mock,
Triumphant queen, fecund in redemptions,
That monster all swollen with hatred and spittle.
from “To a Madonna”
― Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal