"Romance Was Born" this way.........Spring Summer 2011/12

Staged in Sydney’s Grand Mitchell Library the soothing sounds of the Sydney Youth Orchestra and gorgeous blooms by Lisa Cooper and Simone Gooch set the scene for a much anticipated and spectacular show. Entitled The Oracle, began, and one couldn’t help but feel that the design duo had Chanel in mind. There were embellished jeans, reminiscent of those seen back in January at the Chanel S/S 2011 couture show. Lustrous pearl prints featured on soft silk fabrics, while glossy strings of pearls were delicately weaved into the models’ hair, styled to resemble rope (there was a Grecian element to the show). There were also ballet flats, courtesy of Bloch.

It was in fact the work of 1920s illustrator Erte that inspired Romance Was Born. At least, that was just the beginning. RWB love a bit of a mash-up — a clever mix of prints and textures. Their other source of inspiration was a little more fantastical. The German fantasy novel The Neverending Story by author Michael Ende also stirred the artistic pair. The ideas behind the collection might have been inspired by fantasy, but the collection was the most wearable to date: fluid dresses over pants (a key look from the A/W 11-12 collections), jumpsuits, lots and lots of lace, and unique digital prints of artworks by Australian contemporary artist Nell. One fashion editor who used to comment that while she loved the brand she’d never wear it, quickly changed her tune. Every couple of looks she’d turn to me and whisper, “I’d wear that … oh, and that.”

While the start of the show was highly wearable, the second half reminded us why we love this label so much — and, more importantly, why they are such a vital part of the Australian fashion industry: they’re simply brilliant at creating theatrical showpieces. Yes, things got a little crazy. Various characters from The Neverending Story made an appearance. One model had a sculpture that resembled Rock Biter, the talking rock character, attached to her, while others wore jewellery prints inspired by the childlike empress. There were also plenty of spectacular hats on show, all the work of Teresa Redrup, along with luxurious jewels from Australian jeweller Autore. According to the press release on my seat: “Deco dancers and dream weavers — this season, Romance Was Born are drawn to the complete woman; she wears a hat or headdress, coiffure … and all manner of enchanting accessories.”

At the end, Romance’s Anna Plunkett, who has become a local style icon, emerged in a little black dress and a string on pearls, and one couldn’t help but think she resembled a young Coco Chanel. As Anna and co-designer Luke Sales walked through the library, the Australian Youth Choir sung the theme song from The Neverending Story.

*images & words Harper's Bazaar Australia

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