“Alright everybody, listen up! The walk is very deapdpan,” shouts designer Marc Moore. “You’ve been walking around for ages, you’re f*cking tired and hungry. No posing whatsoever!! We want a nice slow pace, no speedy walking. Everybody got that? Awesome. Love you all!” I’m sitting backstage in a small room upstairs at the Stone Mason’s Lodge on St Benedicts Street. It’s crowded. Jam packed with models, dressers, hair and make up artists, photographers, producers, stylists, designers and me. I’m trying not to get in the way. The models’ discarded clothes are literally being tossed in all directions as they pull on their first looks. Karen Inderbitzen Waller chops fun fur and stuffs it into boots. Two identical twin male models straighten each others’ shirts. Another boy worriedly holds up jeans that are two sizes too big around the waist – a stylist reassures him that they’ll tie them up. SGC director Dan Gosling comes over to say hi and says, “It’s all about wanderers, nomads, nobles and peasants. Broken watches and shoes and glasses you found on the side of the road. Big sloppy jumpers. The things you pick up along the way.”
Marc Moore joins us. “It’s hunting and collecting, lost and found. A bit of a mish mash. A bunch of trends and cultures. Nomads, vagabonds and gypsies. The end look is a nomadic gang of sherpa mountain climbers with their kidnapped biker girlfriends.” Now that’s what I call a quote.
They’re very good at quotes, those Stolen Girlfriends Club boys, and very good at creating hype. The catwalk is split into two rooms, the first absolutely sardine-crammed full of standing crowd. The second room is a lot larger and has space for about 200 people. There isn’t an empty seat in the house. It’s that ability to create hype and spectacle and hunger that’s been the success of the brand, and while I haven’t always been a fan of the clothes, I’ve always had respect for their marketing skills.
And what creates the biggest hype of all at a fashion show? The wait. This one’s a wait of Jacobean proportions (Marc Jacobs that is), and the girl next to me asks if fashion shows are always like this. “Not always,” I say, “but the clever designers know how to read a crowd to make them wait just long enough until they’re salivating.” Finally Marc comes on the loudspeaker. “Sorry for the delay, somebody pissed on the floor and we’ve been trying to clean it up.”
Then the lights go out. A familiar musical track plays. It’s the tune that accompanies the movie piracy trailer at the beginning of all New Zealand DVDS. “You wouldn’t steal a handbag. You wouldn’t steal a girlfriend. Stealing front row seats and goodie bags is a crime.” Thank God somebody has poked fun at that ridiculous track that plays onsite at fashion week. Yes, for some reason the organisers feel the need to tell showgoers not to take other people’s goodie bags. One wonders…
A film projected on the wall begins to play. Shot by Luke Harwood in the central North Island, it’s like an acid trip through the desert. A peyote adventure. The lights come up. A model walks out in a drab olive knitted bustier and long skirt. It looks just like something you’d find in a thrift store in the middle of America. More looks come out. There’s ratty knitwear, Wild West onesies, mismatched denim jackets with leather arms. Donegal tweed suits with fins down the back, white men’s shirts with sweat and dirt stains, Navajo ponchos. Hobo hats, Aztec prints, vintage double breasted blazers with gold buttons. Crocheted knickers held up with string, glasses that look like they wouldn’t be out of place on the island of Absolom, mismatched shoes, and out of nowhere, WASPY lobster embroidered pants. The things you pick up along the way.
There’s still the evidence of Stolen Girlfriends Club of yesteryear – ripped up jeans, a tee shirt emblazoned with the collection’s name ‘Welcome To Nowhere’ and gold studs on shirt collars that all seem a tad unnecessary and overdone – but the collection is strong. Very strong. Unlike previous seasons I can’t find any trace of borrowed creative inspiration. It’s all road movies and nomads. The knitwear is the best I’ve seen all week. The cable knit sweaters and all the girl’s knitted dresses are spot on. It’s a far departure from the ironic slogan tees and ‘This is not Marc Jacobs for Stolen Girlfriends Club’ of past seasons.
I guess sometimes it takes a crazy trip through the desert to find your true path. And if Stolen Girlfriends Club’s path is to be one of clever knitwear creation, then I’ll be the first to jump on board.
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