You wouldn’t be a bad guy if you’d ever gone to a Stolen Girlfriends Club show for the party more than the clothing. The guys behind the cult brand know how to throw a good one. In New Zealand, they’re legendary for it. Scores of vintage jam jars lined up on the bar, each filled with cocktails more deadly than the last. Oh the festivities. Oh the stories. Oh the hangovers.
But at tonight’s show – their first outing at Australian Fashion Week – the jam jars never appeared. Gone were the party favours. In fact, all alcohol was replaced by the teetotalers’ drink du jour – Vitamin Water. It made for a different atmosphere to normal. What would typically have been a stumbling, noisy, hysterical affair turned into a somber show conducted in a most orderly fashion. Guests took their seats amidst a quiet murmur that surely included, “Where are the beers?”
When the lights went down, Kiwi model Phoebe Watt’s face appeared like the Wizard of Oz, projected onto the back wall. She began to speak (though the voice actually belonged to TV3 reporter Samantha Hayes), eventually screaming at everybody to “Sit down!”
Australian model Tallulah Morton opened, in an orange, tan and black aztec-patterned, digitally-printed dress. The print showed up continuously throughout the collection – in high waisted trousers, boys’ shorts and a sleeveless body suit. It was joined by another hero print – a leather look crocodile skin in orange stretch denim – that found its way onto jeans and body con dresses.
Alongside the prints, two key themes emerged. American sportswear – gridiron in particular – and early 90s, Point Break era surfing. Raglan sleeved tee shirts had the appearance of a quarterback’s practice jersey, while a very salable white tee’s rolled sleeves recalled a running back’s shoulder pads. A pair of half black, half melon board shorts came teamed with an oversized hooded shirt; and black backpacks trailed sand all over the catwalk behind the models.
Stolen Girlfriends Club have often been labelled New Zealand’s answer to Ksubi. Big on printed tee shirts, big on jeans, big on branding. They’re known for taking international trends, making them their own and repackaging them in an easy-to-understand form. In that respect, tonight’s show ticked all the boxes. The collection will no doubt be a commercial success.
But showing for the first time in a place like Sydney requires some noise. It calls for something larger than life. Oversized vintage jam jars, perhaps? And Stolen Girlfriends Club’s usual fireworks weren’t on display tonight. The first time Ksubi showed in Sydney, they put rats on the catwalk. It was a tasteless gimmick, but one that earned them international headlines. One can’t help but think that had the Club put something a little stronger than Vitamin Water on the bar and something a little more risque than sand on the catwalk, the results would have been different from what they were – a good show, but not necessarily one that will be talked about for years to come.