Wednesday, 30 November 2011

QUT Fashion 2011 Graduate Show

Last night was the opening night of the QUT Fashion 2011 Graduate Show and Kiki and I were lucky enough to be in the audience. The evening showcased 24 of 26 graduates' collections, usually of 6 pieces, produced with love sweat and doubtless a few tears. This show is the culmination of 4 years hard work as a QUT fashion student and is a student's launchpad into the great wide commercial world of fashion.

I arrived at The Block early and luckily got to have a quick chat with Adele Turner, one this years' graduates and the only one to produce an accessories collection. Hers was not just a fashion project but an international community cooperation one as well. She designs and produces samples of her work here and the bags are then handmade by craftsmen in India, who learn valuable skills, earn a proper wage and are even supported to start their own business. As Adele said – sustainable at both ends. I was lusting after one of her beautiful creations but didn't have the cash on me, so I'm hoping to get an invite to her launch next year and nab one then...

The beautiful Adele Turner with her creations.

Milling outside waiting for the show to start, it was clear most of the audience were friends, family and supporters of the graduates, as well as a few sponsor reps such as a delegation from Westfield Chermside who awarded prizes for the most commercially viable collection at the end of the night.

Kiki and I had an absolute blast. Sparkling to kick the night off and a goodie bag on our seats might have helped. Our seats in the second row turned out to be a first-timers mistake – if you can't first row, go third or last, they're elevated. Still, we were in a good enough position for me to try my hand at fashion photography for the first time.

Helena Chung

Ali Kornhauser

Of the 302 photos I took, I could delete about 80 for being out of focus and another 80 for being either of models' backs or first-row hair. Still, what I couldn't photograph I could see and I loved it. It was so exciting to sit there and watch so much local talent parade past you. Some of the collections – Franchesca Blardony and Jacqueline Curren to name a couple - I positively swooned over.

Franchesca Blardony

Jacqueline Curren

Emily McGuire

Katrina Gaskin - the only lingerie collection, and genuinely lust-worthy.

The more outlandish collections were wonderful to look at, if slightly less street-ready.

Allanah Sarafian - theatre costumes

Angela Jhang

It was a night of amazing talent that we as a stylish cultured city can be proud of. When in a few years' time I'm wearing my Phoebe Younger for CUE, Chelsea Whitbread or Meredith Hewitt I will a delightful sense of pride; and smugness, that I saw their first ever collections.

Chelsea Whitbread

If you're at all interested in fashion buy your ticket now to this fun and fabulous show. It runs November 29 – December 2 but Friday night is sold out.

Emily McGuire and an enraptured audience.

Fiona Lai

Kirsty Glynn's stunning high-romance/colonial inspired collection.

Photos are the author's own, of original work by QUT fashion students. No offence or infringment is intended in the publication of these photos. Any issues or requests for withdrawal will be attended to immediately. Please contact me if there are for problem resolution.

Monday, 28 November 2011

The fashion show, the magazines and the indecision

Tomorrow night is the opening night of the QUT Fashion Graduate Fashion Show, and I'm going to be in the audience. Not because I'm special, just because I bought a ticket. I've been wanting to attend the annual QUT Fashion Show for years – every since I was a student there myself, um, a short time ago... But like Mercedes Benz fashion week, every year it rolls around and every year I fail to appear. This time I was prepared and I even persuaded Kiki to go with me.

So the first challenge is over and now the real and much more difficult challenge needs to be faced – what to wear?!?

You see, despite a long time addiction to Vogue magazine and a deep, dark desire to work in the fashion industry I am not particularly fashionable. On a good day I like to think that I have a certain style that suits my personality, and in general I am happy with my wardrobe of boring basics, 50s/60s vintage and gifted jewellery. It is not, however, a very fashionable wardrobe and sitting down on the weekend to plan an outfit, I was stumped.

I'm not so much this, more as...

this. If anyone was still needing to get me a Christmas gift.

Searching for inspiration I got out my most recent Vogue – October, UK – but is was full of coats and 'shag' and 'fetish-light' and other 6-month-ahead forecasts. March Vogue was at least in the right season, if just as depressing. I have no jewelled tones, no neon accessories; no gypsy-theme and certainly no thigh-high opulence. Deep down I knew it didn't matter what I wore but I didn't want to look too shamefully out of pace either.

So what does the nonfashionista do when facing a fashionable event and neither the time nor the money to shop 'fashion'? They turn instead to the wisdom of Sarah Turnbull in Almost French. When faced with a similar situation at Paris Fashion week, Sarah struggled to compose her own most 'fashionable' out fit, only to learn that when push comes to shove the most acceptable option is also the simplest: just wear black.

So tomorrow night I will not be fashionable. I will be classic and classy in a black CUE cocktail dress. Photos to come...

Monday infographic

Today's infographic is about coffee. Because I love coffee. I love meeting people for coffee. I love the excuse of coffee, I love the taste of coffee. The only thing I don't particularly like about coffee is the smell. Yeah, go figure. Anyway, DesignTaxi have a gorgeous infographic on 17 trivialities about coffee.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Film Review: Melancholia

Last night I went to see Lars Von Trier's Melancholia, starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexander Skarsgard and Keifer Sutherland. The film was shown as part of the Brisbane International Film Festival, but should be on general release quite soon. It's been leading the pack at various European film festivals and awards shows, and let me tell you, this film deserves every accolade it's getting. It's one of those pieces of cinema that makes you reconsider what a film can be, and the types of human experience it can explore.

The film is structured in two parts. The first chapter, "Justine", concerns Kirsten Dunst's character, and her wedding to Michael (Alexander Skarsgard). It takes place at her sister and brother-in-law's beautiful country estate, and we are briefly introduced to her family and their various dysfunctions. The focus of the chapter, though, is the unravelling of Justine's emotional state under the weight of the star above her, and her sudden inability to enjoy her wedding or connect with her new husband. Her behavior is explained in a key moment later in the film, but in these early moments, we are only able to watch as she inexplicably starts to dismantle her life - at her wedding, of all possible times.

The second chapter, "Claire" takes place days or maybe weeks later, when the people of earth know that the star is actually a planet, headed for the sun, that might pass us by or might crash into Earth and destroy us. Claire, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, is Justine's sister, married to John (Keifer Sutherland) and mother to Leo (Cameron Spurr), and her experience of this threat is extremely different to Justine's. Her tension and fear - for her son, for what could happen to her life - is palpable, and she displays the strain of eroding faith that I think many people would share in her situation. The sheer existence of such a planet, and the knowledge that she's living through an actual doomsday scenario, goes up against her belief that there's no possible way life or the human race could be utterly wiped out like this, and resolves onscreen as a creeping sense of betrayal that's far too big for her to process.

One of the things that makes this film so amazing is how believably it realizes what is a fairly far-fetched scenario. (I'm telling myself it's far-fetched. Do not contradict me. There are no planets hurtling towards us.) Justine and Claire, as well as the other characters we see, react with all the helplessness, anger, twisted resignation, preemptive grief and sheer terror that you would expect if the situation was real, and the director doesn't forget to infuse the film with the twin sensations of waiting in anticipation, and time inexorably running out. A key change from other apocalyptic films is the focus on small domestic drama, rather than the action-packed efforts of soldiers or renegades to stop the threat and save the world, and I think it's this that makes it feel like a far more genuine exploration of human nature and experience. Another contrast is the lack of grimy, desperate apocalyptic scenarios; even the planet - the instrument of the apocalypse - is rendered in greens and blues, or shining like a second moon, contributing to the strange beauty of the film's setting.

The actors handle their roles with skill; Charlotte Gainsbourg is fantastic, and I'm more interested in Kirsten Dunst than I've ever been. I can't say enough about how sympathetic and believable their portrayals of Claire and Justine are. The supporting actors are also excellent, and I thought Keifer Sutherland was unexpectedly perfect, infusing John with a likely level of entitled-lord-of-the-manor, balancing it with his obviously deep love for his wife and son, and then somehow including a weakness that makes his end utterly believable.

A lot of people I know have had bad experiences with Lars Von Trier films in the past. And yes, Dancer in the Dark was traumatic, Dogville was uncomfortably cathartic, Antichrist was horrifying, I know, I've heard. Melancholia won't necessarily change opinions of Trier as a director who likes to elicit extreme emotions from his audience, but the film is so outstanding that it's worth the risk. It's beautiful, the emotions are perfectly handled, and the ending is...well, I won't spoil it. The whole film is intense, exhilarating and sad, and you should go see it even if you need a stiff drink afterwards. (Actually, if you go to Palace Cinemas like I did, you can take the drink in with you, for fortification during. Might be a good idea...)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Where do you fit in the world?

As we all know, this week the world reached a population of 7 billion people, re-igniting all the usual debates about growth, economy and sustainability.

As part of their reporting on this momentous or terrifying occasion, depending on your view point, BBC News have published a sort of calculator on their website, whereby you can enter your date of birth and find out just what number you are in the world’s population. I’m in the 4.7 billionth area. The number is too long for me to remember.

It does a few other nifty tricks too so have a look.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Day 2 in Bangkok - our day as tourists

We crammed a lot in to today, so forgive the long blog post.

Stop one was the flower markets, going past … a squirrel!

Or a squirrel-like creature.

The flower markets stretched out over many blocks, all of them crowded over with stalls selling piles of marigolds, orchids, roses and ferns. I tried my best at hip photography but didn't do so great.

To be honest, I probably didn't have to be all sneaky with my photos, but it was day 1 and I was nervous and I didn't want any scary Thai ladies to yell at me about taking photos.

After the markets we got culture and headed for Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, a beautiful Buddhist temple dating from the early 19th Century.

We noticed yesterday and again today going in to Wat Arun that though outside is all noise and car horns and people, people, people, as soon as one steps inside a temple complex, the walls act as a mystical buffer between you and the outside world; the noises ceases and everything is peaceful and calm. It's a wonderful relief for the weary traveller.

Arriving at Wat Arun bright and early we had the pleasure of being some of the only tourists in the complex, always a pleasure when you can walk around freely and get a sense of space. The main temple is a central spire or 'prang' which one can climb but not enter. We only got halfway up – the rest of the stairs looked rather too vertiginous for me. Still, even from the mid-way point the view out over the river and around Bangkok was gorgeous.

Photo courtesy of Jane.

There were even some monks!

We left around 10 o'clock and paid the princely sum of 3THB each to cross the river on a rickety ferry to Wat Pho, or the Reclining Buddha Temple. One of the oldest and largest temple complexes in Bangkok, Wat Pho is supposedly the home of Thai massage and to this day is a working temple complex and houses a school for traditional medicine and massage. However, people flock here to see the reclining Buddha itself, a 46m long golden statue representing Buddha as he ascends to Nirvana. Which accounts for the smug expression on his face.

Buddha looked smug and happy, not the guy in front. Though he looks pretty chuffed too.

Aside from the House of the Buddha, the complex itself is extensive with a number of smaller temples and all of it gorgeously decorative, covered in tiles and with teams of Buddhas lining the passageways.

A mighty familiar-looking parrot. Part of the intricate tile decorations at Wat Pho.

The top of one of the many towers or 'prangs'.

Once we'd finished at Wat Pho, our next intended stop was the Jade Buddha Temple. However the queue to get in was just too much to cope with, what with the annoying tourists and al, so instead we settled on a quite afternoon break in our hostel with beers.

Later in the afternoon we went out to the Jatujuk Weekend Markets, apparently the largest outdoor markets in South East Asia, which is a pretty big claim. But they were indeed vast. Or rather, I imagine they were vast. We were so scared we'd get lost that we decided to stick to one very small area, constantly checking on ourselves that we knew where the road was so we wouldn't get trapped in a Bangkok-market-labyrinth and emerge in two days with strange tattoos, ugly patterned and highly flammable skirts and with strange stories of what happens when it all falls quiet. So we stuck to souvenirs and clothing. I was on the look out for a new bag – my current one was quite literally falling apart – and Jane needed new shoes. Only one of us succeeded, and Jane was super excited about her new comfortable thongs. I bought an umbrella. It's blue.

Bangkok at dusk.

To round out a long and very full day, we headed to Rambuttri Road. Tucked behind Khao San Road, Rambuttri is the still touristy but plesant version of the same. At Jane's request, we dined at the Macaroni Club, enjoying stir fry and noodles while being waited on by a hostess in a mini dress from The Nanny. We drank, we met a charming Belgian man, we forgot to ask his name and we went home.

Margarita on the left, Pina Colada on the right.

Puffer fish lights in the Macaroni Club.

Tomorrow: Saigon!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Bangkok / Thailand: country number 3 within 24 hours.

We landed at lunchtime and set off to explore; which was a complete failure that I'm going to skip over the whole afternoon except to say that we saw a nice temple and got extremely sweaty.

Wat Suthat

The quiet temple grounds were a welcome change to the noise and heat outside.

Later that same evening – Friday 26 … still - we headed to the infamous grotty-backpacker riddled Khaosan Road for some beer and pad thai from a street cart. The pad thai was delicious, the beer was cool and the street theatre entertaining in its souvenir-wearing loud-mouthing drunkenness. Khaosan Road is it seems a Bangkok institution, though for no positive reasons.

Staring down Kao San Road.

In a stretch of 200m you see every possible cliché about Thailand and negative tourism. There was 'thai massage', hippy pants, cheap baggy singlets, women in 'local' dress hawking all manner of wooden articles and all of it enveloped in a crowd of bronzed barely dressed bogan Aussies, Americans and Brits for whom this is likely to be the high point of their trip. Not our scene, though Jane was persuaded by a street seller to buy a Changi Beer cigarette holder. I think this was proof of how worn-down we were by this stage of the journey. [Actually, it's probably just more proof that I'm a sucker - Jane]

Jane turns away, uninterested in the original-design singlets.

The best part of the day.

A loving tribute to the Paris Metro

To celebrate a 90th anniversary of something to do with the Paris Metro system, photographer Janol Apin has taken a series of black and white photographs depicting the names of the Metro stations. Anything more than that I cannot tell you because the site with the photos is in French.

But the photos are still fantastic, even if you do need to know a smattering of French to get some of the gags.

Photos by Jalon Apin.

Looking at these photo today makes me whistful for living in a city with a metro system, and with reading The Flaneur, a book all about Paris and its people, I'm starting to think it's time to pay another visit to Paris.
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