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PERFORMANCE BRINGS TOGETHER U.VA. STUDENTS,
INDIGENOUS ARTISTS, AND COUTURE FASHIONS
Tuesday, January 12, 2016 (CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA) – On Saturday, March 19th,
2016 the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia will
present an evening fashion performance titled “Culture Couture” at the Jefferson
Theater. This project, sponsored by the U.Va. Arts Council, the Embassy of Australia,
the U.Va. Parents Committee, the U.Va. Department of Drama, and the Office of the
Vice Provost for the Arts, will introduce Charlottesville to Indigenous Australian
fashion and the remarkable creativity of U.Va. students.
Lauren Maupin, Education and Program Coordinator at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection,
was first exposed to Indigenous fashion during a trip to Australia in the summer of
2014. She attended a fashion performance at Cairns Indigenous Art Fair that
showcased the colorful, contemporary, and unique textiles and designs being
produced by Indigenous Australian artists. “I was overwhelmed and impressed by
the ease with which the artists transferred their designs to the new medium of
fabric and the context of a runway. Given that U.Va. has no fashion program, I felt
Kluge-Ruhe could fill a need for students by bringing the two together.”
To realize this goal, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection created a fashion design contest in
January 2015, prompting students to submit original sketches for garments which
would honor Indigenous hand-printed textiles as artworks themselves. Marcy
Linton in the Department of Drama agreed to offer an advanced course in Costume
Technology (DRAM4598) in which students would fabricate the winning designs.
After receiving numerous sketched designs, Maupin and Linton selected ten and
paired them with fabric from four different communities in northern Australia:
Babbarra Women’s Centre, Injalak Arts and Crafts, Erub Erwer Meta, and Merrepen
Arts. Alison Copley, an Australian arts and fashion professional, consulted on the
Patterns were made by Linton and Dorothy Smith, Costume Shop Supervisor in the
Department of Drama, and local seamstress Beth Neville Evans. Seven students from
various disciplines enrolled in Linton’s course and successfully constructed their
garments during the Fall 2015 semester. Part of the course involved learning about
Indigenous Australian art and culture through visits to the Kluge-Ruhe Collection
and by skyping with textile artists in one of the communities where the fabric was
Olivia Tritschler, who designed and fabricated a pant suit for Culture Couture, said:
“As a Global Developmental Studies major, this project has enabled me to pursue my
interest in fashion and cultivate an appreciation for cultures that are different from
my own. It intrigued me to learn more about the designs of my fabric and how some
of them were so important to the artists that they couldn’t be shared. I am honored
that I get to be a part of bringing these unique and contemporary cultural traditions
to a wider audience in an innovative and respectful way.”
In addition to showing the student designs,
the fashion performance will also feature
garments and accessories made by leading
Indigenous designers. The performance will
feature ten looks by the label Pandanah.
Nicole Monks, a Sydney-based Wajarri
Yamatji designer of Aboriginal, Dutch and
English heritage, founded her label through
a ‘blackandwhite creative’ initiative with her
partner Cara Mancini Geros, from Hawaii, to
weave Aboriginal philosophies of
sustainability, innovation and collaboration
into art, interior design, and fashion.
Designer Julie Shaw, who recently launched
her label ‘Mayrah,’ which combines
inspiration from her home country with a
luxe fashion aesthetic, is sending eight looks
for the performance. Yuwaalaraay designer
Lucy Simpson is contributing textile and
jewelry designs to accompany Radiate, the
2016 Collection by Mayrah. Simpson is
Artistic Director and Principal Designer of
the textile label ‘Gaawaa Miyay,’ which she founded in 2009. Finally, six looks by
emerging artist Elisa Jane Carmichael will be included. Carmichael has developed a
line of woven garments that incorporate traditional weaving practices, the cultural
significance of the land, and elements of her coastal Queensland home. She uses
fabric printed with the designs of her paintings, as well as fabric she dyes with the
natural red ochre that is an important medium for many Aboriginal artists.
Finally, the show will also feature accessories featuring textiles hand-printed by
artists at Injalak Arts and Crafts and the famous ‘weaves’, or woven necklaces, of
Grace Lillian Lee. Lee also runs her own label, ‘Jetty Love,’ which includes couture
garments that highlight the weaves, and are inspired by the landscapes of north
Queensland, the Torres Strait Islands and the Great Barrier Reef.
Music trio Biliirr, featuring Lucy Simpson and her sisters Nardi Simpson and Jilda
Andrews (Yuwaalaraay), will give their first American performance as part of the
evening’s celebration of Indigenous creativity. Singer-songwriter Nardi Simpson
performed at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in 2001 as a member of The Stiff Gins. Jilda
Andrews is a museum practitioner at National Museum Australia and a Ph.D.
candidate at Australian National University. Performing as Biliirr (“bill-ear”
translated as black cockatoo) they offer audiences a gift of country through song and
Local arts and culture enthusiast Michael Swanberg will emcee, and a step-and-
repeat will provide the opportunity for attendees to sport the fashions they
coordinate for the evening. Australian-themed hors d’oeuvres will be catered by C &
O Restaurant and St. Kilda Australian wine will be served.
An after party will cap the event until 11:30 pm at the Jefferson Theater, with first-
year U.Va. student Kristopher Cody serving as DJ for the evening.
Tickets for Culture Couture go on sale on Monday, February 1st through the U.Va.
Box Office at $12 per regular admission ticket. Kluge-Ruhe members receive a
discounted ticket of $10 and tickets are free for U.Va. Students with Arts$.
Image: Professor Marcy Linton adjusts the fitting of a garment designed and made
by Olivia Tritschler, using Indigenous fabric from Babbarra Women’s Centre, on
local model and artist Annie Temmink.