Few Australian brands boast the immediate recognisability of Romance Was Born. The brand’s founders Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales have spent the last 16 years establishing and refining their signature brand of whimsical Australiana—equal doses of theatricality and exquisite beauty. Nowhere was that blend more potent than at the brand’s Resort 2022 show, which debuted as part of Afterpay Australian Fashion Week in Sydney’s Carriageworks last night.
Plunkett and Sales have always been ahead of the pack with their approach to upcycling, but this collection, which presented two lines—’Arts & Crafts’ and ‘RWB Forever’—concurrently, took the ‘circular fashion’ ethos to new heights. During last year’s lockdowns, the duo—who first met in the early Aughts while studying at the esteemed Ultimo TAFE New South Wales Sydney Institute—began to gather years worth of deadstock (off-cuts of fabric from previous collections) from their Sydney workshop. They committed to creating an entire collection using the remnants, only adding fabrics that they found secondhand through friends, or online.
The end result was a cacophony of semi-couture gowns. One dress was made with a repurposed French wall hanging (“we had it sitting in our office for so long, and it became clear that this was the time to bring it out,” Plunkett told The Guardian) hand-stitched with Australian birds. Another used Plunkett’s mother’s wedding veil; another still the bones of her best friend’s wedding dress. “We were thinking about wedding dresses in particular,” she said. “It’s a one-wear thing and then where do they all go?” Sydney-based poet Meagan Pelham’s romantic words added to the love-fest—they were embroidered onto dresses in Swarovski crystal.
Other highlights included a mini dress made of spliced together laser-cut heart motifs, hand-embellished magenta opera gloves (Dua Lipa eat your heart out), and ‘80s prom-style evening dresses—some of which were made with the actual remnants of ‘80s-era pieces Plunkett and Sales found on eBay. There was a patchworked kimono fastened with a thick leather wrap belt, and quilting repurposed into voluminous gowns with statement bows fastened at the neck.
Models entered the runway through a slowly-spinning carousel into an ethereal garden setting, their heads fastened with ’20s-style beaded headpieces or ruffled silk hoods. The effect was stirring—a meditation on the cyclical nature of fashion and (if you really wanna go there) of life itself, a lesson the world has learned the hard way this last 13 months. Yes, the hamster wheel of fashion production can feel exhausting, and occasionally tedious. But don’t moments like this—where the wheel slows down to pave way for unapologetically ornate, sustainably crafted clothing—make it all worth it? The proof is in the sequin-embroidered pudding.