White Wash was much more than Ingrid Verner's Autumn/ Winter collection for 2014. It was a sociopolitical commentary on the implementation of policy affecting Indigenous Australians over the past century. In one of the gutsier moves made by present-day Australia designers, Verner examines and reflects on Australian history as well as representation of women of colour in the fashion industry. It was made to stir controversy and evoke some deep soul-searching and it delivered on this level as well as aesthetically. Although I already love Verner and her (albeit brief) collaborative effort with Monika Tywanek, it's this sudden move towards poignancy and deriving meaning from fashion that has me intrigued. I generally resent the opinion of fashion being viewed as a trivial pursuit and that all things are immaterial.
As the title of the collection suggests, White Wash is a minimalist collection comprised of monochrome tones with an uncompromisingly unique approach to garment structure and design. Although you could hardly accuse the premise of the collection as being too simple or bare in substance, I think the simple colour palette really reinforces to us the complex nature of the 'White Wash'. That society is no longer subdivided into shades of black and white but there are shades of grey to every spoken word, action and person. It is the variety of different textural elements and techniques Verner showcases, combined with her ability to combine intellectual thought packaged within a fashion collection that firmly plants her among some of Melbourne's best and brightest designers.
Following a common trend amongst fashion designers around the world, high heels have been abandoned for the clean and versatile pair of sneakers. This has been very popular at Fashion Week in Sydney with white Reeboks storming the cat walk at Karla Spetic and New Balance at Kiaya Daniels. While some fashion editors, insiders and bloggers may fiercely reject the idea, what speaks volume about this trend is that the shoes are all sparkling white and pristine. It's their state that indicates so much about the lifestyle of the wearer. While I dread to think what would happen in the first hour if I were to wear a pair of white shoes, I am in favour of this swing towards balancing both comfort and style. It still presents the necessary challenge of trying to style the shoes with an outfit with the addition of adorable socks, if appropriate. The biggest benefit of this trend is looking cute without compromising fashion savvy street cred.
Verner presents a balanced, and contemporary view of modern Australia for the consumption of a morally conscience audience. Without the abstraction or use of vivid colours, the form, function and texture of the clothes takes precedence with a diverse range of silhouettes. Sensible winter coats were made to mimic warm duvet blankets and engulf the wearer in a deliciously obscure way creating a quilted, patchwork suit of armour. I'm don't really have the capacity to buy more than one coat for a single season and wear lots of layers when I go out anyway, but I think I need to add these jackets to my hit list of things to buy. Simply because I no there will be nothing else like it for years to come, it at all.
Trousers varied from form-fitting and quilted, to mottled tracksuit pants, to billowing wide legged incarnations branded in the White Wash logo. What really struck me was that each idea was itself, really different and could have easily been made the feature of it's own collection- but instead each has been offered within this same, cohesive package to really delight and confuse. To quote Lawrence Weschler, on David Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, "It’s that very shimmer, the capacity for such delicious confusion... which make constitute the most blessedly wonderful thing about being human." While it may seem like an exaggeration to talk about pants in this way, I really did love being continually surprised by each new idea and having the ability to exercise choice.
I have unhealthy and obsessive feelings towards those garbage bin bags like, they are on a whole other level of greatness. Their design is integral to this whole serious discussion about modern Australian culture and the white wash, but because of the way they look they intrinsically deter copy cat designs. Because they look like a garbage bag- I could make a DIY of this look but I would still look like a disgusting bag lady! I think there's something really great about a designer who is clever enough to prevent others from degrading their reputation and stealing their unique designs. That said, Verner has been cheeky enough to borrow the design of high top canvas shoes from Converse and re-brand the trademark Chuck Taylor star with her own White Wash patch.
Some may be content to buy into the international brands like H & M and Uniqlo coming to town and they're entitled to buy into such cheesy, crass commercialism but in some small way, Australian fashion is fighting back by demonstrating its complexities and its craftsmanship. Importantly, there are those who are story-tellers who are able to use their craft to draw our attention to a greater social consciousness, and they do it in style. In my literary studies class, our lecturer questioned the status of the word "story-teller" or rather its use in an essay we were analyzing. I think if you look back over time, to societies based on oral traditions without things being written down it was the story-tellers who were revered. While that isn't necessarily relatable to the 21st century, where everything you say or did can be archived online I can appreciate the hybridization of both art and narration with something that can be worn.