You think with a swarm of world class street stylers descended upon Sydney for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, I would have stepped aside and just let Candice, Tommy, Phil, Nam and Natalie do their sweet sweet snappy thing. I'll be kicking off coverage with mammoth piccy posts from the shows but first up, something a little on the unexpected side.
I saw Lisa Twomey backstage at the Romance was Born show (more about that later) and then met her later on outside the tents. Lisa happened to be wearing a splendidly eye-catching coat, one that I initially thought was upcycled by someone else but turned out to be adorned and decorated by herself. In a few brief words, I got the gist that she was a painter, happened to be interning at Romance was Born and made a lot of clothing herself, using her own collection of antique and vintage bits and pieces. A further bit of nosy Googling made me hap onto Lisa's blog. It sound a little bit creepy to say "I discovered Lisa blah blah blah" but I did love the idea of coming to MBFWA and discovering that beyond the catwalks, something quite vibrant, wholly tangible and defiantly untainted was going on in this girl's style and work.
Hailing from Canberra, Lisa has been painting murals and participating in group exhibitions and makes clothes that are vehicles for her hoarding tendency. "I really like carrying my favourite things around with me all the time and my bag was too full. So I would sew trinkets and bits of old beautiful fabric and lace and beading, which my nana gave me onto the clothes, make the pockets big enough for books, sew secrets into the pockets and try and construct the whole thing pretty much out of recycled junk."
For want of a better word, Lisa T's clothes, which are available on a site called Out Clothes, could be classified as upcycling or to be even more gauche, it's upjazzling. However, when Lisa takes garments and encrusts them until they're heavy with studs, gemstones, beading, lace, old fabric and roughens up the texture with haphazard embroidery and quilting, you can barely recognise the foundation garment on which she began to work on. It goes without saying that trying to throw about theme-based words like gypsy or folk does her work no justice. Instead, it's an undefinable mish mash that blends a ton of things together. When Grimes came on as the soundtrack for the Romance was Born show today, I felt like Clare Boucher's voice could have easily been embedded into Lisa T's clothes.
Delving into this stranger on the street and her work also gave m an excuse to connect her approach with Hiromi Tango's work, which I saw at the wonderful "Contemporary Australia: Women" exhibition at the QAGOMA in Brisbane on Friday. Tango, a Japanese-born, Brisbane-based artist created two site specific installations, X chromosome and Pistil, for the gallery, showcasing a whole host of "women's work" associated materials and techniques. Craft paper, wool, flowers, sweet wrappers, soft toys, notes, letters – anything with a perceived "girliness" intertwine with each other to form a DNA double helix shape as well as a long rectangular glass display of much the same but neon-lit with Hotel Hiromi. Like Tango, Lisa T is probably well on her way towards becoming someone that isn't afraid to embrace the multi-displinary – "I paint, I draw, I make, I do" – and whilst Tango may knowingly be overwhelming viewers with kitsch, just as Lisa T is throwing out perceived "ethnic" vibes out there with her clothes, it's clear both have something a lot more to say than just mere aesthetic prettiness.