Style is predominantly an individual matterthe way people put themselves together creates a sense of individual identitybut collectively it creates a sense of common culture in a community, a city, or a country.
Geographically isolated from the fashion hubs of Paris and New York, Australia may not yet be synonymous with style. But as it moves away from the beach look that it is usually associated with and adopts haute couture, Australia is emerging as a shining star in the southern hemisphere.
Though not the political capital of the country, Sydney is nevertheless Australia’s cultural capital, and the style hub and epicenter of the country’s fashion evolution. Sydney Street Style depicts the style of this less-explored fashion capital. Beautifully assembled and packed with full color photos of the stylish and eclectic residents of Sydney, this book will be a welcome addition to the library of any fashionista or armchair traveler.
About the Author
Toni Johnson-Woods is a senior lecturer in the School of English, Media Studies, and Art History at the University of Queensland, Australia. Vicki Karaminas is associate professor of fashion studies and associate head of the School of Design at the University of Technology, Sydney, in Australia. Together, they coauthored Shanghai Street Style and coedited Fashion in Popular Culture. Justine Taylor graduated from East Sydney Tech in 2000. Her labels have been showcased at Australian Fashion Week and are retailed in boutiques throughout Australasia.
Read an Excerpt
Sydney Street Style
By Vicki Karaminas, Justine Taylor, Toni Johnson-Woods, Kate Disher-Quill
Intellect LtdCopyright © 2015 Intellect Ltd
All rights reserved.
Is there such a thing as a Sydney street style, or a fashionable style that is distinctly Australian? Jennifer Craik believes that "fashion is seen as belonging to far flung cosmopolitan sites elsewhere" equally she says that "Australia has long been regarded as being cut off from the 'finer things' of civility, fashion and good taste" (Craik 2009). Why is it that mention of an Australian style conjures images of wide-brimmed Akubra hats, T-shirts, blue jeans and practical footwear such as thongs, sneakers and riding boots? Margaret Maynard notes the paradox in Australian fashion: we love to dress up and to dress down (Maynard 2001). And yet, contrary to widely held assumptions, there has been an interest in fashion and a thriving fashion industry since European colonization and settlement in Sydney Harbour. History as well as social and political movements have affected the development of the Australian way of life and nowhere is this best expressed than through the colourful, casual and comfortable approach to what is worn on the streets. Subcultural styles such as grunge and vintage teamed up with ready-to-wear labels by Australian designers Lisa Ho and Toni Maticevski to the more avant-garde fashion labels Romance was Born and OPUS 9 by Justine Taylor. What is considered to be a Sydney street style is eclectic and is evidenced in the various suburbs, quarters and districts that make up the locale of this thriving metropolis.
Located on a coastal basin and nestled in a protective harbour, the city of Sydney is bordered by the Pacific Ocean in the East and by the Tasman Sea in the south. Colonized by the British in 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip sailed into Port Jackson with the First Fleet consisting of 11 ships filled with convicts, sailors and free settlers with enough provisions to survive until they could grow their own food and raise livestock. Phillips' orders were not to construct a great city, but to establish a penal settlement for British convicts to relieve the overcrowded prison conditions back in Britain. At the time of colonization, Sydney was home to the Eora and Gadigal peoples who had been the traditional owners of the lands for thousands of years. The effects of their dispossession and deaths brought about by unknown European diseases, battles and large-scale massacres were devastating. In the years to come, the indigenous populations would dramatically decrease and those who survived were placed on reserves and missions. Young children were removed from their indigenous families and placed in institutions or as domestic servants in "white" communities. The aim of the Australian government was to create a single, uniform white Australian culture by "erasing" aboriginality that was founded on the assumption of black inferiority and white superiority. Assimilation policies proposed that eventually the indigenous communities would "die out" through natural selection. Known as the Stolen Generation, they would become part of the dark side of Australia's history.
For a period of time after the arrival of the First Fleet, civilian clothing and footwear were imported from Britain and consisted of ready-made items, fabrics and sewing accessories. Shortages in apparel were common in the early days of settlement as goods would often arrive by ships saturated in water, or their arrival would often be delayed by bad weather. Some supply vessels came from other British colonies, such as India and China, because of trade routes. Garments could also be purchased at government stores, but they were often of poor quality and ill fitting. It was not until 1813 that private enterprises began producing quality fabrics, and by 1820, small businesses were firmly established selling ready-made garments, hats, stockings and shoes. The majority of clothing was still made by tailors and dressmakers either from locally produced cotton or from imported fabrics.
The growth in merchant enterprises and the increase in population brought about new urban developments, emporia and department stores that provided ready-made clothing as well as custom-made services. Importing, retailing and manufacturing took place under one roof using store-owned workrooms and later factories. Initially, a drapery business on Market Street, David Jones and Co., one of Sydney's earliest department stores, opened its doors in 1838 and offered customers imported garments as well as made-to-measure fashions, including its own men's wear label, The Orient. Farmers department store began in 1839 as a dressmaking and millinery shop, and in 1825, Anthony Hordern & Sons descended from a stay-making business. Francis and Mark Foy opened their first store in 1885 on Oxford Street, selling fabrics and haberdashery before moving their premises to Liverpool Street in 1909. Mark Foy is reputed to have installed the first escalators, and its lavish interiors of chandeliers and marble staircases gave the department store an opulence reserved for one of Australia's first fashion stores. With mechanizations in factories, came faster production and subsequent mass output. The introduction of graded mass-produced patterns by Butterick and later by the firms of Worth and Madame Weigel, gave women access to fashionable international styles in the second half of the eighteenth century. Dressmaking salons flourished on Elizabeth Street.
Since the establishment of a light clothing industry (rag trade) in the 1850s, Surry Hills has been known as the garment industry. Surrounded by terrace houses, the Carlton brewery and several pubs, the suburb became a working-class district and was inhabited predominately by Irish immigrants. In the early twentieth century, Surry Hills developed a reputation for crime and vice, and was the home of underworld figure Kate Leigh (1881-1964), who traded in illegal alcohol, prostitution and cocaine and was a leading figure in the notorious Sydney Razor Gang wars. The increase in manufacturing and production after the Second World War led to a post-war boom and many of the displaced Jewish, Greek and Italian immigrants found work in the numerous "sweat shops" and lived in cheap tenement housing that littered the narrow streets and lanes of Surry Hills. In the 1980s, the suburb became gentrified and many of the fashion production and manufacturing companies moved offshore or to the neighbouring suburbs of Marrickville and Redfern where rent was not as high. The ageing architectural facades that once housed garment "sweat shops" were replaced by fashion boutiques, galleries and interior design stores as well cafes, gastro pubs and eateries, turning the suburb into a hotspot of creativity and artistic innovation.
Wander along Bourke Street past the slick minimalist furniture of Aero Designs and you come to Object: Australian Centre for Design and Craft. Object gallery highlights the work of Australian designers and provides a collaborative environment for creative youth and industry. Across the road, directly opposite the gallery, is a school of design and further down the street past Lumiere Café & Patisserie is Tokyobikes. As the name implies, the bikes were designed in Tokyo for cycling around the city, like the mountain bike is designed to cycle in the mountains. There are Tokyobikes in most design capitals around the world, Melbourne, New York and now Auckland, to name a few. Linger outside the store and you might spot a hipster or two, the latest street "tribe" to appear in Sydney.
Bicycles and hipsters go hand in hand, like scooters go with mods and motorcycles go with bikers. There has been much writing and angst by sociologists, cultural theorists, journalists and the like, regarding whether the hipster can be described as a subcultural group or a social movement. Marked by grunge subculture, the hipster is also an evolution of vintage fashion, a bricolage of accessories and garments that have been recycled, redesigned and reused. Hipsters are a product of the sustainability movement with its slow design strategies and slow food (paddock to plate and nose to tail) approach to farming methods and eating. "'Sub-cultures rarely totally disappear', says James Arvanitakis, from the University of Western Sydney's Institute for Culture and Society, 'they simply go in and out of fashion'. According to Arvanitakis, youth subcultures are like mushrooms; even after they seem to have died off, their spores linger in the soil of society, awaiting the right conditions – a certain movie, a band – to trigger their re-emergence". (Elliot 2014)
The term "hipster" emerged during the 1940s in the United States and was used to describe elements of post-war fringe movements, including the beats, hippies and punks. Stylistically the hipsters have much in common with each other, which defines them as a subcultural group with shared tastes and behaviours in alternative indie music, argot and sartorial style. They have progressive political views and are environmentalists that prefer to eat organic and artisanal foods. Yet, as Julia Plevin argued in her article, "Who is a Hipster?" for the Huffington Post, "the definition of hipster remains opaque to anyone outside this self-proclaiming selective circle". (Plevin 2008)
In his book HipsterMattic, Matt Granfield described the Hipster in the following way,
While mainstream society of the 2000s (decade) had been busying itself with reality television, dance music, and locating the whereabouts of Britney Spears's underpants, an uprising was quietly and consciously taking place behind the scenes. Long-forgotten styles of clothing, beer, cigarettes and music were becoming popular again. Retro was cool, the environment was precious and "old" was the new "new". Kids wanted to wear Sylvia Plath's cardigans and Buddy Holly's glasses – they reveled in the irony in making something so nerdy so cool. They wanted to live sustainably and eat organic gluten free grains. For this generation, style wasn't something you could buy in a department store, it became something you found in a thrift shop, or, ideally made yourself. The way to be cool wasn't to look like a television star: it was to look as though you've never seen television.
Simply put, Sydney hipsters are young middle-class bohemians who reside in the chic and gentrified suburbs of Surry Hills and Paddington.
If you keep walking along Bourke Street, past Bourke Street Bakery towards Cleveland Street and take a right turn into Raper Street, you will find the studio (now a museum) of avant-garde artist Brett Whiteley in what was once a disused T-shirt factory with concrete floors and large roller doors. The studio was home to Whiteley from 1987 up until his death of a heroin overdose in 1992, when the Art Gallery of New South Wales purchased the premises. Whiteley was part of a generation of artists, writers and poets that were bohemians and asserted a desire for creative autonomy whilst experiencing the commercialization and commodification of their work in the Australian media and mainstream popular culture.
In her study on French bohemia, Elizabeth Wilson wrote that,
[T]he bohemians arose at the crossroads where artistic experiment and political repression met, born of a developing consumer society that both craved and abhorred artistic novelty. They identified themselves in opposition to what they perceived as prevailing bourgeois values, particularly in relation to the appreciation of the arts.
Bohemians were conspicuous consumers who fashioned themselves as works of art, such as the dandy, the aesthete and the avant-garde, by pushing the limits of the everyday mundane in their pursuit of intellectual and artist freedom. The fashion industry would later co-opt bohemian sartorial style and call the look Boho-Chic. Sydney had been home to a rich bohemian culture from the mid-1890s until the 1970s, and it was the eastern suburbs of Kings Cross with its gaudy lights, brothels and illicit venues that became the hub of the bohemian milieu. Wedged high between two adjoining buildings on the corner of Rushcutters Bay Road and Victoria Street, the bright red neon Coca Cola sign has become synonymous with the alternative lifestyles that Kings Cross and its neighbouring suburbs of Elizabeth Bay and Potts Point have offered its residents and passers-by. Its dense urban character with its tenement buildings and narrow streets lined with bars and cafes provided bohemians with the social space to pursue the intellectual and sexual freedom associated with creativity. Commanding vistas across Sydney harbour, Elizabeth Bay and Potts Point were once home to the wealthiest free-settler residents in the nineteenth-century Sydney. Many of the houses that were built reflected the rise of the detached Greek Revival villa, set within several acres of landscaped gardens, as the ideal form of middle-class housing. Built between 1835 and 1839 and known as one of the finest houses in the colony, Elizabeth Bay House, with its sweeping staircases and large lavishly decorated rooms hosted grand balls where the fashionable bourgeois of the new colony gathered to celebrate. The fashions worn by men and women at these balls were usually sourced from dressmakers and tailors and styled locally from expensive fabrics and trims. Maintaining European standards of style and manners, the governing elite looked to Britain for their fashionable dress. Men wore black double-breasted frock coats or a lightweight Chesterfield topcoat with plain trousers and a top hat. The most fashionable of men used a walking stick or cane as an accessory and women wore gowns made of Chinese and Indian muslin that were imported from China, India and Britain. Picnicking and promenading along the foreshore were favourite pastimes for the wealthy colonial settlers.
Elizabeth Bay House was later purchased by the art patron, Arthur Wigram Allen (1862–1941) and converted to artist's studios, and riotous parties attended by Sydney's bohemian circles replaced the once grand balls. Other grand mansions in the area, such as Boomera in Potts Point, were converted into artist studios and bedsits that increased the population density of the precinct. This urban character provided an environment for bohemians who abandoned social ties in the pursuit of intellectual, sexual and artistic freedom. The artist and occultist Rosaleen "Roie" Norton was drawn to the creative milieu and alternative lifestyles that Kings Cross offered its residents. She had moved into the house at 170 Brougham Street with the artist and poet Gavin Greenlees. With a small built frame, dark curly hair and arched eyebrows, Norton would often inhabit the many cafés on the strip dressed in a dark masculine suit with a colourful tie and beige woollen trench coat. A cigarette would hang languidly at the corner of her mouth. Known as The Witch of Kings Cross, Norton openly claimed her dedication to the occult, which was evidenced by her artwork and the trances, and ceremonial rights that she conducted in her home. Many of Sydney's intellectual and creative circles, including the composer Sir Eugene Goossens, were visitors to Norton's home and participated in the religious rituals and orgies that were practiced there. Bohemians defied conventional society in many ways, from the outfits that they wore, which was intended to shock, to the outrageous public behaviour and lifestyles that they practiced and flaunted. "At a more profound creative level", writes Elizabeth Wilson, "erotic experience became the raw material for many of their challenging works" (Wilson 2009).
Characterized by romanticism and creativity, bohemian fashion reflected the lifestyle itself. Bohemians used dress as a style of expression and modelled themselves on European aesthetes. Novelist Marcus Clark, Australia's first professional bohemian, dressed in the style of the French philosopher Charles Baudelaire and novelist Honore de Balzac. Clark styled himself as a dandy and wore moleskin boots, tan breeches and a straw hat. He kept his hair short with a neatly trimmed beard and often carried a wooden cane. Although Baudelaire did not write about bohemianism, in his essay, "The Painter of Modern Life" (1863), he identified the dandy as one of the great heroes of modernity and an expression of rebellion and revolt over the vulgarities of bourgeoisie. There was no particular style of bohemian dress, rather artists and the literati would deploy various strategies and garments to express the forms of rebellion that they wished to express. "The bohemian was as ambiguous a character as any on the kaleidoscopic urban scene, and different forms of bohemian dress were emblematic of the shifting and protein character of the bohemian" (Wilson 2009: 228).
The early Sydney bohemians were associated with the artist's balls that were held at the Sydney Town Hall and date back to 1880. The most notorious of these masquerade balls was held in 1924 and was described by the "Queen of Bohemia" Dulcie Deamer, who wore a leopard skin costume and dogs tooth necklace, "as a night of great scandal". Deamer was associated with the Norman Lindsay literary and artistic circle and the vaudeville scene in Kings Cross. The balls were organized around a particular theme, and in 1924, the theme of the ball was Back to Childhood. Artist George Finley, who was "notorious for his freaks and fads in everyday life" (New Zealand Truth 1924: 7), arrived at the ball wearing a nappy secured with a safety pin. "Any such clothing in the lowest slums of the city", reported the New Zealand newspaper Truth, "would surely cause the wearer to be arrested and charged with indecent or offensive behaviour. But at the Artist's Ball, the police did not seem to deem it their duty to do anything to deter exhibitions of flagrant, blatant, and frankly inviting nakedness" (New Zealand Truth 1924: 7). The night turned into a brawl and an orgy, with the Town Hall basement littered with beer and drunken semi-naked revellers, "jellies were used as missiles by drunken brawlers" and "bread rolls served as batons to clout people with" (New Zealand Truth 1924: 7). "There can be no side-stepping the fact", reported the Truth, "that fancy-dressed paying dancers were well to the fore in the whole disgusting exhibition" (New Zealand Truth 1924: 7). Dressing up in play and performance and revelling in outlandish behaviour was to proclaim the triumph of the pleasure principle (Wilson 2009: 232).
Excerpted from Sydney Street Style by Vicki Karaminas, Justine Taylor, Toni Johnson-Woods, Kate Disher-Quill. Copyright © 2015 Intellect Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Intellect Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements Styling Sydney Shoes Handbags Hats About the Author