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  • Writer's pictureFiona Prior

‘The Look’ and the Sherman Centre for Culture and Ideas

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

Thanks to the generosity of Dr Gene and Brian Sherman and the Sherman Centre for Culture & Ideas (SCCI), Henry’s readers can now delight in the treasure trove that is the SCCI Cinéphile Hub. My eye was immediately caught by an interview with Dame Zandra Rhodes and this in turn had me thinking about unforgettable fashion signatures ... ‘looks’.

Dame Zandra Rhodes – pink hair plus exuberant fabrics and designs – has been a well-known, high profile ‘look’ in our universe since the rise of her eponymous label in the 70's. Unmistakeable. Unmissable.

As we know, a 'look' can be a uniform of sorts, an aesthetic signature, even a stylised cladding process! Mine has always been black and skinny – over the decades ranging from latex to linen, provocative to classical. Pretty dull when compared to Dame Zandra Rhodes and her almost violent explosion of colours and textures!

Diane Keaton circa Annie Hall had a definite ‘look’. She made the oversized ‘man-suit’ her own. The Duchess of Winsor was another unforgettable style mistress; her idiosyncratic streamlined hairdo and cut to the bone evening wear made her silhouette immediately identifiable. At the other end of the spectrum, but just as iconic, was rock-chick Courtney Love (pre her Hollywood make-over). Love's continually smudged red lipstick and micro baby-doll dresses, made her a uniquely stylish mess and the ultimate wild child.

There was a certain model in the era of supermodels (90’s) – Eve Salvail – who, in contrast to the flowing locks and curvaceous figures of the time went all Jean Paul Gaultier; her off-duty look being a mini kilt, biker boots and a platinum buzz-cut. A number of fans – myself included – found her far more 'super' than her more famous cohort. And that is not to mention the actual Jean Paul Gaultier, all tartan and stripes and platinum blonde. Often a look becomes notable, not just because it is a signature but because it either stands-out obviously or epitomises a historic moment or socio-political mood.

Boy ‘looks’ in history to the present? Beau Brummell and his intricately tied cravats and physique-celebrating suits (Brummell did a bit of a 'Chanel' to men's fashion, minimising an at the time opulent look, and turning style into tailoring and cut rather than conspicuous opulence); Frank Sinatra and his signature fedoras epitomised a most sophisticated cool, Elvis with his signature quiff and tight trousers was sex-on-a stick, Yves Saint-Laurent with those horn-rimmed glasses and razor-sharp tailoring just dripped elegance ... there are so many more. Sid Vicious can’t be overlooked – a snap-shot of personal style and psychic anger brought on by the depressed economic conditions of mid-70's Britain gave youth a look that visually spat on an establishment they felt had let them down so badly.

I must mention Dr Gene Sherman herself. If my memory serves me well from the early 2000’s, at the beginning of each season Dr Sherman would buy a number of identical and glorious all-black outfits by Comme des Garcons or a designer of an equally avant-garde aesthetic. One outfit would be wrapped in tissue paper to be donated to the Powerhouse Museum collection and the others would be put on rotation, worn with oversized silver cuffs and bracelets. Such an effortlessly stylish way to clad a body, run an art gallery, and pro-actively advance Australia’s cultural soul.

(*Dame Zandra Rhodes' garments clad everyone from Princess Dianna to Freddy Mercury. Her extraordinary textiles not only graced the backs of celebrities and those who loved her joy-filled fashion but can also be found on furniture and home furnishings. In 2003 Rhodes founded the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. Dame Zandra was awarded the Walpole British Luxury Legend Award 2019. This interview shows her personal warmth, extraordinarily vital style and celebrates her wonderful friendship with artist Andrew Logan.)

Find more treasures from the SCCI Cinéphile Hub here.

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