If catwalk queens Miranda Kerr and Gisele Bundchen are looking out for the next fashion trend, they might do well to consider the high fashion coming out of Bendigo, which has seen models strut down the runway in haute couture outfits made entirely out of baling twine, tractor filters and onion bags.
Elmore Field Days’ Ag Art Wear competition and Bendigo Council have brought agricultural high fashion (or ag art wear, as it’s known) onto the catwalk and made it look fabulous in a display of original designer garments, currently showing at Bendigo Visitor Centre’s Living Arts Space.
Government News caught up with Elmore Field Day’s competition organiser Joyce Giffin, who has helped bring fabulous farm creations to life since its inception in 2001.
Mrs Giffin said the main rule was that the clothes had to be made solely from materials found and used in farming, such as shade cloth, rubber tyres, fur, zip ties and fencing wire and turned into ingenious, wearable designs. Garments don’t have to be sewn, they can be tied together with plant-tie wire, chains or gaffa tape.
Another rule, which Ms Kerr, Bundchen et al will be heartened to hear, is that creations must be wearable, not too heavy and not scratch or injure the models, who are mostly local women.
The competition has gone from strength to strength since it began in 2001 with 12 entrants and some fairly basic dresses to the hotbed of friendly rivalry that is today, with 54 entrants and some incredibly elaborate pieces.
Mrs Giffin said that some of the weirdest creations had been the most wonderful.
“We had a grasshopper plague a few years ago and one of our top designers made a big grasshopper. She [the model] was in the middle of the grasshopper’s body, with big pointy legs sticking up – like a grasshopper does – and that was excellent.”
Another year, an entry from Bendigo Secondary College students led to a model being clad as a frill-necked lizard.
“There was a big frilled collar that came out of the back of the model and claws over the hands. It was really good. That was another weird idea but it worked.”
Last year’s competition winners included farmer Nola Wallis, who took out the avant garde category with her tropical flower explosion dress, echoing memories of the Yanac flower show and the flowers, fruit and vegetables her parents picked and cooked with. The dress was made from duct tape, banana bags, rope, canola bags, tarp, pink eye and wound dressing spray, fencing wire, fruit protection foam and box plastic, amongst other farm-fresh materials.
Winner of the National Designer section, farmer Jan Dew, constructed a skirt and a bodice reminiscent of Victorian fashion in nineteenth century Britain after her son challenged her to make a competition entry completely out of tractor filters.
The result was a layered skirt with a fan-shaped train at the back and a bodice with a high collar. The hook fasteners for the dress were made of wire casings and duct tape was used for the trim.
Ms Dew got her inspiration from checking out the contents of the farm shed where there were lots if bits and pieces waiting to be made into something wearable.
City of Greater Bendigo Tourism Manager Kathryn Mackenzie said some of the designs would not look out of place in a European fashion show even though on closer inspection they were made out of things people found in their farm sheds!
“Some of them are absolutely exquisite and I think they could really be on the catwalk because they have to use their imagination and they’re really doing something that’s way out there,” Ms Mackenzie said.
“I do think some could end up on the catwalks of New York or Paris, They are real showpieces and showing fashion as an art form. The most common comment you hear is, “I can’t believe that’s from something on a farm turned into something so beautiful”.
“We are finding all sorts of people with ordinary day jobs but in this other world they are creating all this magical stuff. That’s what we’re all about: people trying to get exposure for their work.”
Some weaving groups that have been successful in the competition have already gone on to sell their products online.
The exhibition is on at the Living Arts Space, Bendigo Visitor Centrein the Historic Post Office building, 51-67 Pall Mall, Bendigo. It’s open daily until April 26 between 9am and 5pm. Admission free.
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