For the past six months the fashion world has been shouting about the return of the sex to the runway. And with more flesh on display than not, we pliantly nodded along. Yet, it was at All Is A Gentle Spring's Afterpay Australian Fashion Week debut that the notion of sex really hit home. After all, we're a country that prides itself on how little we wear. From swimsuits to no shoes at all, skin-bearing is part and parcel of our painfully casual wardrobe. But as the sultry piano of Secret Garden from Madonna's Erotica album took hold over the century old ballroom at Balmain Town Hall, a new blueprint for sex and sensuality was presented before us. One that shook us from our coastal daze, daring Australians to reach for it and run.
"The girls are little lambs, but very sexy," designer Isabelle Hellyer tells RUSSH contributing editor Kitty Callaghan, who stepped backstage at the AAFW 2022 show, noting it was this that shone through most. Tacked to the mood board were images of an early 2000s Angelina Jolie alongside stills of Anne Hathaway from Les Misérables. And in the wake of the Met Gala, we feel Bella Hadid's outfit could have easily slipped in, too.
As for the beauty direction? The orders were "freshly fucked" with soft tendrils escaping from loose updos in a manner that feels like a homage to sex workers and the pared-back beauty of the 90s. Styled by Redken hair director, Diane Gorgievski, "it’s the sort of hair you could do in the back of a taxi", Hellyer explains. "It just begs to be replicated".
To drive home this mood, the assembled lineup of models were both dangerous and damsels. Before heading out into the crowd of onlookers, photographer Ellen Virgona managed to capture some intimate moments behind the scenes. Hellyer's mother Belinda walked, as did a handful of her friends. Some of our favourite faces like Mia Kidis and Daia from Stone Street made an appearance, bringing a slick edge to a collection that felt so historic. Meanwhile, Jeet Pavlovic closed the show.
To the untrained eye, the collection delivered heaping spoons of Scorpio energy, but after closer inspection, and with the self-assured guidance of Hellyer, the All Is A Gentle Spring woman is an Aquarius through and through. Hellyer's creativity and obsession with history vouches for this. A fascination she owes partly to her great-great grandmother, who ran a dressmaking shop called Bonberette in Melbourne from 1917 until the 1940s and to whom this collection is addressed.
Naturally, there were corsets and boned bustiers, the latter crafted from Savile Row wool suiting and made in Australia. And for a label so entrenched in community, there were bound to be a handful of cameos from local designers. Right on cue designer Emily Mae Poole and textile artist Nelle Rodis were enlisted by Hellyer to create the soft bonnets and Victorian neck bands sprinkled throughout.
What we didn't expect were simple wardrobe staples comprising of pure Australian merino and Japanese lycra. Nor the balloon skirts with cartridge pleats so dense they had to be folded by hand. It's a technique that hails from the Elizabethan era and acts as evidence of Hellyer's fascination with historical techniques and revived couture finishes, as further witnessed through the Petersham ribbon waist stays, spiral steel boning, and buckram interlining.
Above all, these methods pay deliberate attention to the female form, harnessing it and accentuating it, be it through a voluminous low-rise skirt that sways at a twist of the hips, or with sapphire and chocolate silk cut into a loose blouse and cascading off the breast in a way that's redolent of Tom Ford's first collection for Gucci. A piece which we cannot separate from Hellyer's muse Madonna who wore it to the 1995 VMA's.
It's all female energy and sexual prowess at All Is A Gentle Spring and mark our words, we are lapping it up.
Video Directed by Hyun Lee for All is a Gentle Spring.