Fringe Furniture 2013 Delivers a Fresh Burst of Design Imagination

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Melbourne's Fringe Furniture exhibition, part of the annual Fringe Festival, is famous for its fresh, inventive and cheeky attitude. This year's theme was 'Make it true', a call to bring imaginative ideas to life. Many entries combine artistic flair with unexpected uses of recycled materials. I popped in last weekend and took some pics.

Fringe Furniture has become an iconic Melbourne event. Established in 1986, it showcases the work of some of the country's most exciting emerging designers. It is entirely open access and includes an awards program and a mentor program. Its home in recent years has been the Abbotsford Convent  a trip to this artistic hub is an outing in itself.

The standout exhibit for me was the scary chair pictured above. Made from a recycled piano and plumbing fittings, with lighting coming from open mouths on curved tentacles, it has an uncanny touch of the Addams Family about it. Titled 'The festering', it was indeed inspired by Uncle Fester, who would power lightglobes by putting them into his mouth. It's the brainchild of Amanda Gibson and Peter Drofenik.

A very different kind of seating (and colour scheme) can be seen in this comfy looking bench by Celine Huggins. Its materials include food cans and synthetic ply towelling and the slats are pool noodles, no less.

The piece below is the very definition of conceptual elegance. By Adam Raphael Markowitz, it's called the Möbius Chair and is made from laminated birch plywood.

The uncanny crops up again in  'Fledgling', a striking light shade made from ostrich feathers, stainless steel and rusted steel. It's by designer Alex Sanson.

Why hasn't someone thought to combine the chair and the sleeping bag (or is it a windcheater) before? The result is an invitation to withdraw into domestic comfort. This design, 'Cocoon', is by Evan Mery.

I loved the bold yet natural colour shades on this coffee table, which is made from a salvaged pallet, with a base of black zinc steel. It's by Marcus O'Reilly and is fittingly titled 'Palletto to pallete'.

Here's a close-up of the surface.

The flash photo below doesn't fully convey the charm of this next piece, which has a 'steampunk' feel. Known as 'Jacklight', it was made from mixed materials by Donna Kirkwood and Patrick Neil at Zom8ie.

This trio of a stool and two tables had a pleasing spidery feel and an earthy asethetic. Created by Christopher Herman, the tops are Australian limestone and the legs are corten steel.

The striking light shades below are porcelain designs from Colin Hopkins's Porcelume collection, created in his studio at the Abbotsford Convent. Hopkins's delicate, translucent designs are hand thrown on a potters wheel and then etched by hand, creating a shimmering feel. 

These are only a few of the almost 100 pieces in the Fringe Furniture exhibition, which runs until 6 October. Opening hours are Wed – Sun, 11 am – 5 pm. It's at the Abbotsford Convent, 16 St Heliers St Abbotsford. It's well worth a look if you're in Melbourne  stroll around the convent grounds afterwards, and have a cuppa in one of the cafes.

Until next time!

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Advanced Style – A Fashion Blog that Advances the Image of Women

Picture:  Caitlin Bussey

There are so many great fashion blogs on the web these days, it’s difficult to keep track of them all. One blog that stands out is Advanced Style, which celebrates the fashion flair of older women. 

The blog’s creator, Ari Seth Cohen, roams the streets of New York taking beautifully styled photographs of older people with creative personal style.

The success of this blog has been phenomenal. It attracts around 150,000 visitors a month. It’s featured on television many times, there is an upcoming documentary and Advanced Style coffee table book and colouring book. One of Cohen’s favourite subjects is Ruth, a 100-year-old woman who dresses elegantly every day, exercises daily, travels overseas with her boyfriend and still does Pilates.

There are so many reasons to love this blog, but it’s what it avoids doing as much as what it achieves that makes it so radical.

Advanced Style doesn’t talk down to its readers. Just the opposite – it invites their participation. For the women who regularly showcase their outfits on the blog and have become friends with Cohen, it often becomes a collaboration. Their involvement helps to shape the blog.

There’s hardly a tight forehead in sight. No judgement on those who succumb to ‘enhancement’ such as Botox or plastic surgery, and I’m sure a few of those featured have had the odd nip and tuck, but it’s refreshing to see women who aren’t trying to look young. Instead their aim is to look great and stylish at whatever age they happen to be.

It encourages diversity of expression. Traditionally the only option for the stylish woman as she grew older was to choose the elegant, refined route – pearls, linen, crisp suits and so on. Luckily that no longer applies. The blog includes plenty of traditionally elegant women, but this is just one option. And often a chic line is combined with a bold use of colour and shape to provide eye-catching looks that are both elegant and adventurous; in other words, elegance doesn’t have to be boring.

It encourages creativity and fun. Advanced Style demonstrates that as we grow older, style can become more individualised. These women dress to be noticed, but they also dress for themselves and for creative freedom. The approach is lighthearted. Too often fashion is presented as a serious business. This blog celebrates the creative, fun aspects of fashion.

All this has important implications for both the cultural image and self-image of older women. The point is not to look alluring to a man, but to dress for yourself and, if you are so inclined, to create your look as a work of art. Attention, originality, detail and experimentation are the catchwords here.

This has the potential to lift the confidence and self-esteem of older readers. Not that all readers need such a nudge of course: the women featured in the blog have truly come into their own, and this is where the message to the wider community – that older women are to be respected and their power acknowledged – comes in. (The blog doesn’t exclude stylish men – they are in the minority of course, but some extremely stylish older men are featured.)

Younger readers also get the message that not only is it okay to get and look older, but getting older is an opportunity to grow as a person, and to develop a stronger sense of self. In a sexualised, youth-obsessed culture, these women are role models for younger women.

There are a few drawbacks. Many of the women do wear clothes that are, well, pricey; New York’s well-heeled are not absent from Advanced Style, and sometimes the lifestyle aspects are, ahem, aspirational. However, there’s also a fair bit of upcycling and op shop chic, and plenty of vintage and alternative designers. Overall the blog is refreshingly free of fashion ‘snobbery’.

You don’t have to be rich to gain from this blog. You just have to love the idea of expressing yourself through what you wear – you can do this at any age, of course, but the older you get, the better you’ll get at it.

Advanced Style is not the only blog to celebrate getting older with flair. Pilgrim’sMoonNot Dead Yet Style and The Style Crone are also well worth a look.

Until next time!

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Fabulous Vintage Fashion at Sacred Heart Spring Fashion Parade

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Last week, frugal fashionistas crowded into the Sacred Heart Mission Op Shop in Elsternwick to watch its spring fashion parade, showcasing a fabulous range of one-off vintage and designer fashion for the coming season. All proceeds from the store go to the Mission's wonderful work for people facing crisis in Melbourne.

The MCs were celebrity milliner Peter Jago (shown below wearing one of his own amazing creations) and comedian and writer Fiona Scott-Norman (in the following picture), who also modelled some stunning sixties and seventies designs. 

The fashion items, just a fraction of the cost of buying new, included designer labels such as Alannah Hill. Sacred Heart staff and volunteers featured in the parade, wearing top-to-toe ensembles that the fussiest fashionista would be proud of. The bubbly flowed and the atmosphere was merry.

Picture: Sacred Heart Mission

Picture: Sacred Heart Mission

Picture: Sacred Heart Mission
Sacred Heart Mission provides many wonderful outreach services for disadvantaged people. These include short term crisis services, meals and support as well as long-term housing and aged care. Sacred Heart has a philosophy of empowering people and bringing them back into the community, and partnering with research organisations to provide best practice services. Volunteers are welcome to join its vibrant range of programs.

Until next time!

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Spring Offer: 30 per cent off The Inspired Shopper

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It's spring in Melbourne, and everyone's feeling playful because it's sunny, there are blossoms on the trees and the drunken smell of freesias wherever you go.

Spring is even more special than usual because last month, the Inspired Shopper blog received over 2000 page views for the first time ever! To celebrate, I've cut the price of my book, The Inspired Shopper, by over 30 per cent to only $1.99, and the equivalent in other currencies.

Buy it here if you're in the US or Australia, and here if you'e in the UK - there are also Amazon websites for Germany, India and France.

This offer only lasts until  next Tuesday morning so get it while it's hot : )

Find out more about the book here.

Until next time!

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