Published on Catalyst’s online site:
Last week, Melbourne hosted its 20th Annual International Flower and Garden Show at the Exhibition Gardens. The event for the oldies with all the flowers? Though seniors constitute the overwhelming demographic of the show (complete with tea rooms selling scones with jam and cream) the event also makes host to just sprouting youngsters new to the turf.
Third year RMIT Bachelor of Fashion (Design) students were involved in creating “pieces that explore ‘emergence’ using flowers and plant materials,” according to Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show’s exhibitor list.
“New talent was celebrated… RMIT fashion design students wowed the crowds with the ‘living fashion’ pieces in the Great Hall,” Haystak said in their media release.
Winners of the exhibition included Renae Cusmano taking first place, with second place awarded to Felicity Mawson. Anim Lan and Sherry Kwok tied for a third place position.
“To come first in the exhibition feels amazing, it feels a little surreal. I never expected mine to be chosen,” first place winner Renae Cusmano says.
“During your life if you change jobs, or change through adolescence, one piece moves to let a new emerge. Plants have a cycle, we have a cycle. Everything develops and changes in different ways.”.
For Alinda Tralongo, this body of work allowed her “to explore and represent the theme of ‘emergence’ in a deeply concept and symbolic piece”.
“I wanted to depict the notion of making the invisible visible in showing how through the visual and aromatic aid of plant matter, support structures are able to become prominent in a setting or entity,” Tralongo says.
Qianling Ye (Serlin)’s sliced lotus dress allowed her to witness the “whole process of sliced lotus from alive to dead, which is exactly my concept; exploring emergence as a process of growth and decay”.
The students had a tight deadline in which to complete the “work: inspiration, then research, personal thinking, concept, design, experience and countless problems,” says Ye, around three weeks in total.
“You don’t imagine what you can do in such a short amount of time,” Cusmano says.
“It was definitely an exhilarating experience. It was a rush and a taste of what really happens in the world of deadlines. It was crazy and fast paced…yet 100% worth it,” says Francesca Carolillo.
Tralongo said it “allowed for us students to gain an understanding of the restrictions and regulations exhibitors are confronted with when wishing to display work. As well as bring forward the skills needed to exhibit in such a large space, such as organisational skills, time management and budgeting”.
The students were also responsible for maintaining the exhibition.
“It’s sad to see the flowers wither away by the end of the week, but we took it in turns to maintain each others’ during the week. We tried to keep them as fresh as we could. Two of us had to go morning and night, before the show opened and closed to water everyday,” she said.
Cusmano found it “interesting working with a different medium and a completely different space. It was an amazing experience, needing to find different ways of thinking to create an outcome with flowers rather than fabric”.
“It was difficult as the shape I originally wanted wouldn’t support, so I couldn’t have as much of a cocoon shape as I wanted. I did quite a few samples to find my ideal textures and flowers. I just wanted to try and find a flower that was really pretty and would last the longest, which I found in gypsy flowers. They were very vibrant, and I wanted to keep as much life as I could in the piece,” she said.
Ye also faced some difficulties, where she “spent the whole battle in a sliced lotus jigsaw”.
“Normally it takes 4-5 days for the sliced lotus to dry entirely, but time is limited. Faced with the issue of drying the lotus, I create something new to fix the problem,” said Le.
For many of the students, the exhibition was a learning experience in the broader context of fashion.
“Fashion these days is more disposable. Fashion materials last so much longer than the amount of time we use them for. Working with the plant matter, where they only survive for a certain amount of time with the proper soil and light, made me realise we should use as much as we can, and not dispose of fashion so easily,” said Cusmano.
‘With the experience of this show, I started to change my mind and think that fashion is not just about the garment, it’s about the whole picture, the whole process.
“I feel excited when people talk about my work and they say they like it, which is the value of design, in my view,” said Ye.
With a little water, direct sunlight and a some love, these flowers will soon be ready to bloom.