First Nations Emerging Critic Carissa Lee goes full glamour for Melbourne Fringe’s Kids in Fashion
Kids in Fashion is a project that showcases designs by kids that have been created by local makers, modelled by amazing performers. I’m sad to say there was only a single performance. Let’s hope it returns for next year’s Fringe Festival.
We’re guided up a set of stairs and escorted into a room with tables covered in cut-up cardboard and texters. Parents, couples and kids are then instructed to make a fashion accessory to wear to the fashion show. There were all sorts of thing – crowns, glasses, ties. I had a stylish corsage-style pot plant on my wrist. Pretty fancy.
Once we’re accessorized, we head upstairs to the performance space. As we’re ushered into a dark dance hall transformed into a catwalk, the young designers walk around with a mic, asking people about what they’re wearing, where they get their clothes from, and why they buy the things they do. The MC style of these kids is enviable: no awkward fears about ‘am I bothering this person?’ or ‘am I making a dick of myself?’ These kids are here to do a job and if you don’t want to talk, they shrug, say “Ok,” and move on like it ain’t no thing.
One young girl rocking a demon beanie became my ultimate goal in confidence. She asked the gentleman sitting next to me what his cardboard mask was meant to be. He wasn’t sure. She informed him that he was a swordfish and complimented his wife’s crown, saying she looked like a princess, despite the woman’s insistence that she was ‘just a person in a crown’.
It’s my first fashion show, so I’m excited. The young designers (Jane, Lola, Ethan, Chelsie, Yarran, Poppy, Eva, and Vu) sit at one end of the catwalk, and models enter at the other end. The music starts, the announcer makes an acknowledgment of country (which I got to see in AUSLAN for the first time ever), and we begin.
I was delighted to see that the first model was the show’s DJ. He emerges from his sound desk behind the audience in his gorgeous silver jumpsuit and the young designers come forward and place a robot-like cardboard vest over his shoulders, which looks a bit like the armour worn by space marines in video games. There’s a flower on the front, and it’s proper fabulous. Once dressed, he returns to his sound desk.
We hear creepy lullaby-like music, with a voiceover telling us the story of the Moonana. A figure emerges from the darkness with bananas for hands and a travel pillow-esque neck decoration. They’re adorned with black and white drapes, with a coiled light on their hip under the fabric. Haunting and beautiful, a gorgeous contribution to the opening of the show.
There are outfits for every occasion: pajamas you can’t sleep in, a bright pink construction with amplified hip sections almost an arm-span in width. There’s a suit you can’t work in, which consists of a fabulous silver top and bottom set, with blue lights protruding from it, and the very gorgeous Dress you can’t Get on the Tram In – a glorious wedding-cake-like gown covered in flowers, with massive shoulder pads. Definitely worth the lack of mobility.
The sound matches the apparel: a gloriously eerie feel for Moonana, babies crying for the lady covered in baby dolls, a cat meowing for the cat lady apparel (which featured the fabulous fashionista Carly Findlay). When the music is not heavily-themed, it feels very fashion-y. I think it’s great they didn’t have a childlike soundtrack: it was being treated as a legitimate fashion show in every aspect, from music to set.
In a section I found quite beautiful, one of the young girls tells us: “We thought of fashion as very literal, like the clothes you wear, but it’s like sign language, a way to express yourself.” She explains that they find that school uniforms a bit depressing to wear, which was one of the reasons why they wanted to do something a little different with them. Performers emerge in tiny school uniforms, looking like super small figures in the dark. Finger-puppet figures lit by torches engage with the audience, sometimes even appearing on people’s laps, which made me giggle like a dork. The tiny figures are frightened away by something coming down the runway, and we turn to see a pair of giant hands with a school uniform attached. It is ominous and creepy as heck. I loved it.
The final piece, A sports uniform you can’t do sports in, is an outfit for three people, like a kind of netball team caterpillar situation. The performers are passing balls between them, and of course these balls wander into the audience and we have to hit them back. Then the show closes, and all the designers exit with their models.
Under the direction of Merophie Carr, the performers are having the time of their lives. It truly feels like the kid designers are the guests of honour: they remain at the end of the stage, and each model bows or acknowledges them before turning around to return down the runway.
The voiceovers, the curation itself and the beautifully diverse models and performers are all validations of these talented young designers, in a setting where they get to be the ones telling the story. The future that remedies the damage we’re doing now is in the hands of our young ones, and if this is an example of the drive, bravery and, most importantly, the imagination of the kids who will be in charge of making this world a better place, I feel very reassured. I’m so happy they’re getting a head-start.
XS Critical Focus is a Witness Collaboration with Melbourne Fringe, looking closely at their program of experimental children’s theatre. Don’t miss the Witness panel at Melbourne Fringe, Children’s Theatre: Who Is It For? at Fringe Hub on September 22.
Kids in Fashion, designs by Jane, Lola, Ethan, Chelsie, Yarran, Poppy, Eva, and Vu, Created by Adele Varcoe and collaborators, creative producer, Dan Koop, performance director Merophie Carr, music byMoses Carr, lighting design by Paul Lim, interpreted and realised by: Jane Morley, Vanessa Duque, Amber Reese, Elisa Keeler, Jessie Kiely, Blake Barnes, Cassandra Wheat, and Lauren Cray.
With RMIT Fashion Students – Josephine MacPherson, Kristine O’loughlin, Xiaoru Jiang, Zexin Zhang, Angel Ang, Adrian Wiley, Fotini Kazakeou, Danika Hill, Shaye-Anne Singline, Isabella Nolan, Kirsten Olsen, William Sullivan, Carla Zoumpoukas, Georgia Stewart, Isabella Demartini, Josephine MacPherson, Kristine O’Loughlin, Xiaoru Jiang, Zexin Zhang, Angel Ang, Adrian Wiley, Fotini Kazakeou, Danika Hill, Shaye-Anne Singline, Isabella Nolan, Kirsten Olsen, William Sullivan, Carla Zoumpoukas, Georga Stewart, Isabella Demartini. At The Space Dance and Arts Centre – The Skydeck . Closed season