Opening Afterpay Australian Fashion Week this morning was Australian-British designer Jordan Dalah. Although he’s been touted as “one to watch” for some time, for the Central Saint Martins graduate this was to be the first time he showed on models as part of a live runway show. Perhaps this could be a little daunting – to be in pole position for your first time in the race, and even more so given this is AAFW’s return after a year’s hiatus.
But Dalah revealed his surrealist, Victorian fever dream with all the resplendent confidence of someone who’s been here many times before. For a crowd perhaps unfamiliar with Dalah’s expertise and artistry the emergence of his puffy, maniacal volume might have shocked and bewildered. The designer himself has stated that he doesn’t design to be safe, nor does he aim to suit everyone’s taste. However, the purely imaginative cosplay was a breath of unbridled freedom for an industry that has been so focused on retail endgame.
To begin AAFW with a label that defies the ordinary and burgeons a sartorial wilderness is refreshing. Though the collection is labelled Resort ’22, it was far more akin to an haute couture presentation. Perhaps something in sync with COMMES des GARÇON’s deconstructions of French neoclassicism or even with Moncler’s garish puffer gowns from their collaboration with Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli early last year.
Either way, Dalah’s fascination with unsafe fashion volume is thought provoking and most certainly a post-show conversation starter. His 2021 take on the bubble skirt is fabulously wacky and, at times, somewhat facetious. The tyre-sized mouldings, overt sleeves and hunchy shoulder lines all crafted an anti-silhouette. Morphing our hourglass expectations into something far less harmonious. He took jerseys and cottons from their sensible homes and pulled and floated them into a thrashed iteration of an indie Marie Antoinette. He offered ballooned gowns with stapled cushions, mega-quilted bows, clown-like collaring, hyper hair-dos and even face-covering body stockings that all moved the vibe into a theatre of Lynchian observance.
While Dalah’s gowns and separates may not be everyone’s night-out-at-the-bar wardrobing, his experimental nature is a welcome return to fashion as a means of expression. Closing the show was muse and model Georgia Fowler, in an pouffe-sleeved, all-encompassing floral gown. Its hem, filled and rounded like a bumper-car’s, skimmed the runway giving the look a lifelike movement. Her hair, in a sensational bouffant and her now noticeable baby bump added to the virility and romance of the whole atmosphere.
If this is an indication of sky-high ideas to come from Dalah, we’re intrigued to see him push the boundaries of both fabric gravity and fashion as a whole, as the seasons progress.