Villa Maria Cult Couture Awards
A static scene of destruction, lights dimmed, a pile of rubble, a crooked Eiffel Tower, broken statues, and the ominous feeling that the world was about to end. A subtle twitch, the stretch of a leg and a human sculpture was revealed, dancers contorted in and around the rubble. The lights go up and the theatrical spectacle of the Villa Maria Cult Couture awards begins.
As the music from Les Miserables begins and the scene is somewhat explained, the show is loosely themed around the French revolution, although the idea loses direction in some areas. A trio of exceptional female vocalists alternate performances between entry sections. TV three news presenter Alistair Wilkinson’s voice is projected across the auditorium. A close up of his lips, painted geisha style, is magnified on the big screen as he narrates a running monologue to the festivities.
The first section is Flight of Fantasy a group of wearable art style entries. The designers had experimented with a variety of extreme shapes and materials. A puffball orange dress designed by Brooke Wise and named “Allergic to Pumpkin Soup” was my favourite, easily swayed by my penchant for all things orange. But it was a fun collection of stuffed toys “The Toy Collector” which took out the sections top award. “The Wild Rose” took out runner-up, making the evening a double success for Maxine Woodridge and Kristin Leitch who designed both garments.
Next up was the Obviously Organic section where there was an abundance of some of New Zealand’s best natural fibres, flax and wool. Visesio Louis Thomsen took out second place for his spectacular creation “Lava Princess” which also won him the Manukau designer award. I wholeheartedly agreed with the winner in this section, AUT alumni Helen Anstis, whose woollen creation “Magic Mountain Mod” twisted around the body like disfigured rams horns.
The Formally Yours section kicked of with a beautiful performance by a bevy of ballerinas and went on to show some equally elegant and sophisticated garments. Jessica Soon’s “The Young Victoria” caught my eye, as did Jenny Foster’s “Nature inspired” outfit, which consisted of an exquisite bodice and tailored dress pants. Averil Manners and Donna Walford were the runners-up in this section with “Madame Pele”. My absolute favourite from the entire evening Bianca Paulus’ “Pacific Pastel Pleats” took out the prize for the section with a beautiful crafted pleated dress.
The Recycled Revolution section always offers surprises, its extraordinary how designers interpret different mediums. Jesame Matara was the runner-up in this section with her pop art style collaged bodice entry “1980’s Candy Media”. Lindah Lepou took out both the award in this category and the overall prize of the evening with her shredded sensation “Eco Chic”.
The On the Streets section kicked of with a pumping performance by three young hip hop dancers and was followed by some of the best, and most wearable entries of the evening. Jade Smythe’s three entries were skilfully draped and employed luxurious velvets and leathers. Lisa Li’s cute and chic pastel jumpsuit took out the runner-up spot, and Sung Eun Kim’s “Rain cloud” took out the top spot.
The show finished appropriately with the matrimonial bliss section. Wang Tu-Ting was the runner-up with her Taiwanese inspired, high-necked “Mary Kay” dress. But it was Kiri Nathan who took out first prize with the first of her two entires, “Ma Whero Vintage”, an elaborate pearl pink dress with sunray pleats complete with intricate headwear and a twisted train.
Now in their 8th year the Villa Maria Cult Couture awards once again showcased some of the countries most talented and innovative designers. The awards have successfully combined the best aspects of other design competitions, the multicultural aspect of Pasifica, the environmentally aware mindset of Trash to Fashion and the high level of design and construction formally seen at the Deutz awards. It was my first year seeing the wards first hand, and I’m told they’ve come along way since the humble beginning of the first show held at an abandoned big fresh supermarket. Once minor details with acoustics and lighting are sorted Cult Couture could come from behind to take the lead as the countries premiere public fashion show event.