Iconic fashion designer Collette Dinnigan has been creating beautiful clothing for more than 25 years.
Now, in a coup for Queensland’s fashion industry, a pop up exhibition of her signature lace and embellished designs has been installed at Indooroopilly Shopping Centre until April 10 – the first time such an exhibition has been held in a shopping centre.
Curated by Dinnigan herself, the pop-up forms part of the Collette Dinnigan: UNLACED exhibition, currently housed at the Powerhouse Museum Sydney and includes a selection of the her embellished dresses, virtual catwalk projections of models showcasing 25 years of designs.
There’s also an interactive space where children (okay, adults too) can create their own designer outfits.
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) curator Glynis Jones attended Wednesday’s launch and said she was privileged to work closely with Collette and theatre designer Anna Tregloan to develop Collette Dinnigan: UNLACED, which explores the designer’s career and aesthetic.
“It really made me appreciate her creativity and business acumen but also highlighted the considerable workload fashion designers like Dinnigan take on to maintain their place in a very competitive and complex industry,” Jones said.
The trio worked for more than a year to bring the 80-piece exhibition (in Sydney), which features ensembles, accessories and archival material in a series of striking themed sets, to fruition.
“We had about 250 pieces to choose from the Museum’s archive and also Collette’s own archive to choose from; we unpacked 25 years of archives which brought up a lot of memories for her and she was constantly redesigning pieces from her own collection; wanting to change the length or add more beading,” Glynis said.
“You can certainly see the richness and diversity of Collette’s designs; from her delicate spider-web laces to a sequinned mermaid dress worn by Miranda Kerr and a dazzling beaded mini dress worn by Taylor Swift to the 38th American Music Awards in Los Angeles,” she said.
The Indooroopilly exhibition has a black and silver theme, with embellished pieces including the dress worn by Swifty.
“Collette chose black and silver; she loves the romance of it and it’s a bit rock and roll with the glittering silver on top of that,” Glynis said.
Born in South Africa, Dinnigan grew up in a family “filled with love and laughter”, the daughter of creative parents who socialised with people from varied nationalities.
In an interview with Glynis, Dinnigan reflected on a childhood often spent in the bush on her uncle’s game reserve.
“We spent a lot of time out in the bush and on my uncle’s game reserve. I can remember feeding orphaned giraffes, left behind by poachers, from large milk bottles.”
A staunch opposer of the apartheid regime, Dinnigan’s father built a yacht in the their front yard and eventually the family set sail before settling in New Zealand where Dinnigan would study fashion design.
“My parents and upbringing instilled in me the sense of adventure I still have today. They also taught me to be independent and, most importantly, to follow my heart and be kind to others,” she said.
Dinnigan later moved to Australia where she worked in costume design for the ABC, before launching her own label with a range of delicate lingerie in silk and lace – taking it to a number of national department stores.
“But it was the 1990s, the height of the grunge era and they basically said to her, ‘who is going to buy such delicate things that needed to be hand washed?’,” Glynis said.
As it turns out, Barneys New York would buy them, and Dinnigan’s fate was sealed.
From there it was just a hop, skip and jump (and a hell of a lot of hard work) until Dinnigan opened her own boutiques in Sydney, Melbourne and London’s Chelsea with a star-studded clientele including Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Mary of Denmark, Nicole Kidman, Kristen Bell, Rachel McAdams and Miranda Kerr (and my mum!).
“Most of my inspiration comes from colour, art, flowers, landscapes and details from vintage clothes or antique bric-a-brac. Travelling has always been a great influence too. I sketch collections with fabrics in mind and develop inspiration boards alongside my draping, and this had been a large part of evolving shapes,” Dinnigan said.
The Collette Dinnigan: UNLACED exhibition will be located in the fashion mall, Level 2, Indooroopilly Shopping Centre from 30 March until 10 April 2016.
If you can’t make it to the pop up exhibition, or to Sydney, but are keen to delve more into the world of Collette Dinnigan, head over to her Pinterest page which is almost as good as taking a stroll through her archives with images from her a variety of her collections including bridal, swim, lingerie as well as images which inspire her and famous faces in her fabulous frocks.