The Report: Stand Still

“Of course we want to see clothes in motion, and we want to see them on a human being we can project our aspirational selves onto, but the models tonight at Stand Still weren’t just walking in a straight line, they were dancing.”

Bri Lee

The Report is a series created to showcase our Fashion Writing finalists. We send our writers to Arts, Ideas and Offsite Runway events to take a closer look at fashion that challenges our preconceived notions of the runway and explore design that takes us to galleries, stage and screen.

Written by Bri Lee

When I arrived at Stand Still earlier this evening I ran into one of the designers out the front. Friends around were wearing her designs and we joked that from the front door you could feel the heat emanating from the gallery space inside being filled with so many bodies. The crowd was delightful. Swanning around, but not in a Black Swan kind of way. People were dressing up for people they were comfortable with, some were sitting cross-legged on the floor near the front of the viewing area, many were laughing, almost all were smiling. Everyone looked beautiful in that unique way only happy people can.

Stand Still was Abbey Rich, Caitlin She, Eat Me Do, and Campbell Charlotte coming together to present capsule collections as a collaborative performance. The show was “off-runway” as part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival and supported by Frankie Magazine.

Long-story-short, it was different from everything I’ve seen for ages, and it reminded me of how good fashion can not only look, but more importantly, how good it can make you feel, when it’s done right.

Runways have significance in fashion history, but I wonder how many designers truly believe it is the best and most true way to present their collections. Visionaries at the helms of vast and tiny houses alike, I’m sure, can think of a myriad of better ways to put on a show of their work. I’ve been to New York Fashion Week and as much as it was fabulous, it was also a series of the same pumping techno and flashing lights and bony limbs. Of course we want to see clothes in motion, and we want to see them on a human being we can project our aspirational selves onto, but the models tonight at Stand Still weren’t just walking in a straight line, they were dancing. They interacted with each other, and sniffed and plucked petals off flowers. They smiled and laughed a little, and in doing so they broke the wall between themselves and the people viewing them. The ‘aspirational’ became achievable. We were all part of the same space.

I’m not convinced diversity will ever be achieved so long as the fashion world clings to the traditional runway model. I often think about Brodie Lancaster’s excellent piece calling bullshit on the fashion industry sending large women down runways but then never actually making clothing for sale that would fit a large woman. Tonight’s models were all different shapes and sizes – but here’s what’s critical – they weren’t there as statements. They didn’t stand out in a space that wasn’t built for them and historically hasn’t welcomed them. That’s the point. At Stand Still the fashion was made by and with and for these people – all different people. There could not be any ‘plus-size’ because there was no ‘normal-size’. There was no women’s runway being presented and sold separate from a men’s runway. Stand Still’s creators made their own space and filled it with their own community, and so there couldn’t be any othering.

It can’t be a coincidence that this incredible feeling of community and positivity came from the same kind of designers who were so visibly excited to be working together. The friendship and joy on display engulfed any potential ego. It’s also a smart business decision – each designer benefiting from the shared audience and reach of the others – that I wonder why more don’t do it a lot more often. What do designers have to be afraid of by collaborating? Brand dilution? Butting heads? The four labels undoubtedly share a similar, I dunno, “vibe”, but isn’t collaboration about celebrating both similarities and differences? I want to take this photo of these women together a put a sign above it with arrows pointing to them and the sign would say: Fashion Industry Learn From These People. Stand Still is what happens when great women are supported, and support each other, to make great work.

They are all conscious creators running small operations with limited quantities to avoid waste. The models were creatives (singers, actors, artists) they know and are friends with. (Remember when models used to actually be muses, not 15 year olds with celebrity parents?) At least two of the designers had their mothers there with them, and I saw these mothers hug their daughters and tell them they were proud. One had tears in her eyes. People helped pack down and hugged each other a lot. People told each other how beautiful they were, and for the first time in a long time I heard compliments exchanged at a fashion event, I believed every single one of them.

In so many ways Stand Still was a revelation for me. It got me thinking about the parts of fashion that we don’t have to accept – the parts that need a good bit of deconstruction – and that it can be positive and conscious. I’m happy about clothes again.

Images by Bri Lee

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