Month 15 | Spring
Nadia Buick | Co-Director, The Fashion Archives
Madeleine King | Co-Director, The Fashion Archives
The trade began in a small wooden house, the Brisbane air was whisking through the rooms, the kind of breeze which moves the papers on your desk slightly, creating a gentle flap. Then it was out into the blistering sun and hot tar roads to get to the location of our shoot. Another warm breezy home.
The Pixel Trade was photographing two exceptional women who are in the thick of an online magazine called The Fashion Archives, ‘an online project about the past and present of Queensland fashion, style, and dress.’ I wouldn’t say I’m a fashionable man in any sense of the imagination, but I do know a great project when it comes my way...
Interview with Nadia & Madeleine
Describe your most memorable adventure as a child.
N: It was actually a school excursion, grade 6 if I remember correctly. I grew up in Maleny on the sunshine coast hinterland. We headed down to Mooloolaba to have a pretty special sleep over at Underwater World, a theme park/aquarium full of exceptional sea creatures. It has a long walk through tunnel with a glass domed roof, which reveals a massive tank full of sharks, sting rays, all kinds of fish, coral, octopus etc. Myself and my fellow students stayed after dark and slept beneath this incredible tunnel. It was majestic watching all of those bizarre and beautiful things floating above us as we tried (and failed!) to go to sleep.
M: I think most of my childhood adventures happened in my mind! I was more imaginative than adventurous.
What is it about fashion that rocks your world?
N: I'd describe my relationship with fashion as a love/hate one. I adore the stories that clothing can tell about the past and present, but I feel uneasy about the waste produced by the global fashion industry. I try to explore the richer, more thoughtful side of clothing in my work and my wardrobe.
M: I find fashion interesting for lots of reasons - it can be good, bad and ugly - but I often return to how pervasive it is. Dress can be both a marker and a catalyst for social change, and that's quite an interesting and powerful thing. The fashion system is also perilously impossible to escape, especially when you consider that 'anti-fashion' is a form of fashion!
When did you realise you wanted to work around fashion?
N: I've been drawn to the possibilities presented by dress since I was a child. Formally, however, I came to it fairly late. I majored in art history and literature as an undergraduate student (several years out of high school) before taking some electives in fashion theory in my final year. I was immediately drawn to its combination of the personal and the social and I quickly took as many subjects as I could. Soon it was my third major. In my postgraduate studies it became my main focus, however my work has continued to be informed by my art and literature background.
M: I wasn't a clear conscious decision, I don't think. I'd always dabbled in dressmaking, but trained to be an artist, and worked in the visual arts. In my art practice I was messing around with soft sculpture and wearable things, and decided to do an MA to explore some of the crossovers between my art practice and the world of dress. I ended up becoming so engrossed in the study of fashion, that it took over. I'm still straddling both worlds.
What has been the most interesting discovery about looking into the past of Queensland fashion?
N: It has been so interesting to reveal the depth and breadth of fashion histories we have managed to with The Fashion Archives projects so far. It certainly challenges the idea that we are a style-less lot here in Qld!
M: The project has told us a lot about Queensland history, and I've been particularly interested in what dress reveals about the lives of women at the time of European settlement, particularly as they've been largely excluded from the recorded history of this time. Dress was a connection to the mother country, but it also had to negotiate a harsh new landscape, so of course the latest in London or Parisian fashion wasn't always appropriate. Surprisingly it seemed that crinolines (stiffened petticoats) proved to be an asset, not a hindrance, when it came to bush-bashing and keeping the legs cool!
Who has really inspired you in the fashion world?
N: Schiaparelli, Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, YSL, Madame Gres, Vionnet, Jeanne Lanvin, Andrew Bolton, Diana Vreeland, Richard Martin, Margaret Maynard, Bill Cunningham, Cecil Beaton, Simon Doonan, Richard Avedon, and many, many more!
M: I've been inspired by many designers - mostly dead ones - but one in particular really resonated with me when I was making a transition from art to fashion. Sonia Delaunay was a designer and artist who worked in Paris throughout the deco period, making garments richly embellished with her colourful geometric designs. Her idea of creating a visual rhythm or harmony between the body and the modern environment (cars, planes, modern architecture etc.) through patterning really appealed to me, and made me realise that my interests as a visual artist could find a place in fashion. She also reminds me of the way that many women artists have historically turned to fashion in order to attain a level of success that may not have been possible in the (male-dominated) visual arts.
Please share three milestone moments in your life.
N: My first trip overseas: 18 and alone to New York.
Completing my PhD.
Meeting my partner, Huw, almost 6 years ago.
M: Moving to Queensland - I probably wouldn't be working on a project about Queensland fashion if this hadn't happened!
Opening an art space with friends after uni - it made me appreciate the possibilities of being creatively autonomous and fundraising for your own projects, which I suppose has led me down my current career path
Finishing my MA - after five years, part-time, it certainly felt like a milestone!
What is something you haven’t told someone in a long time?
N: Sorry Shan, I'm completely stumped on this one!!
M: Honesty, you think I'm going to unravel my intricate web of secrets now?
If you could teach a group of people one thing, what would it be?
N: This is very hard to answer without feeling presumptuous! One thing I think that would help the planet is learning how to look after our clothes and also know how things should be made, and from what, and where, so that everyone can reduce waste, make things last, and be ethical in their choices. I try and discuss this and share what i have learned, when I feel it is the place for it.
M: I'd like it to be something practical and survivalist, like how to tie a rope in many configurations, but alas, that's a kind of wisdom I just don't have.
Describe your most memorable adventure as an adult.
N: Probably a combination of all of the travel I have done to wonderful world cities. I love New York and Paris. I loved visiting these places with my partner Huw and sharing the adventure together.
M: Being unadventurous can make the smallest excursion a wild ride! My ineptitude as a camper and explorer has led me to some near-death experiences in the tamest of environments. Last camping trip I went on with friends ended in disaster when we discovered the tide had turned and made our walk back to base along the beach impossible. Night fell and of course, we were without a torch. We had to bush bash our way to find some seriously veteran campers who thought we were pathetic city folk, but decided to help us all the same. Our insistence that we'd be alright with just our torch-simulating iPhone app did not help endear us to them, either. Somehow, I'm still alive.
If you had to recommend a favourite music album, what would it be?
N: I have to admit that I hate choosing favourites or making lists. We seem to be obsessed by ordering the world in this way! But in the spirit of the question I'll do my best: It's probably a dead even tie between Joni Mitchell's Blue, and Prince's Purple Rain.
M: Tough question! No favourites here, and my recommendations often fall flat, but I do have a great fondness for the epic cinematic tunes of Ennio Morricone that I'd like everyone to share in. The world would be a fun place if he composed the theme tune. On a similar note, I'm a big fan of David Axelrod's 'Songs of Experience' - have a listen!