"It has a sentimentality which is important to me for occasional dressing. It's also how me and Anna started." Luke Sales of Romance Was Born tells me backstage at the brands Forever Runway Show at AAFW. On arrival, the room is quiet, covered in sequins and patch-worked gowns. Sales greets me, and launches into notes on the collection while the models are doing a run through. One which, in the scheme of things, he tells me he feels slightly strange about doing with the world in disarray.
The first thing, Sales notes, is that the collection is crafted entirely of repurposed fabrics. Heirlooms collected from family, old bed sheets from Sales' childhood, scraps of fabric from the studio, antique tablecloths and polyester curtains, it is a coming together of old and new, memorabilia pastiched into a whimsical bridal scene. Multiple brides, a troup of bridesmaids, and a glittering bridal party. The only fabric bought, was that made from discarded Indian roses, spun into silk.
For Sales, repurposing was always intentional. "There is so much fabric already in the world" he says, "it only made sense to use what we have." Each piece acting as a collage of the old, reimagined with hand beaded motifs, embroidered by the Romance Was Born team and by a family business in India, the beading forming intricate designs of parrots, florals, and love poems - forged in collaboration with Studio A, a supported studio based in Sydney that tackles the barriers that artists living with intellectual disability face in accessing conventional education, professional development pathways and opportunities needed to be successful and renowned visual artists.
With Peter Simon Phillips styling, and old and new faces in the mix - Ollie Henderson, Jess PW, Olympia Kristou, Koujayn, Mana Mackay, and Varsha Kumar - The energy backstage was both a return to what Romance Was Born is so known and beloved for, and an ushering of a new guard. Once on the runway, models floated, clad in sequins and stitched together lace doilies, injecting romance back into the hearts of the guests. Welcome back RWB.