The Event: Jenny Bannister Retrospective
Jenny Bannister is standing surrounded by racks of clothing in the front room of her St Kilda home. But what at first looks like a slightly over crowded sample room is anything but: hair is its customised tease, Jenny one by one picks out a host of outfits once worn by a who’s-who of ’80s and ‘90s pop stars.
There is the two-piece worn by Tina Turner with its fitted black jacket and matching kick-pleat skirt; the black collarless jacket Kylie Minogue donned for her I Should Be So Lucky single cover; the immediately recognisable velvet jacket worn by Australia’s late ‘80s answer to Bananarama, the Chantoozies.
And every piece comes with it’s own story.
Jenny: “Helena (Christensen) used to stay at the Como with Michael Hutchence and used to love going up and down Chapel Street; I told her where to go when it came to all the vintage shops. Kylie Minogue turned up at my house in Port Melbourne to buy after finding my clothes through doing magazine shoots. Deborah Thomas was one of my customers. Kate Fitzpatrick when she was going out with Imran Khan came and bought a whole leather outfit. I think she did a vodka ad in it…”
But the walk down memory lane is more than just an indulgence for the designer who headed her own label from its launch in the mid-1970s to its wind up in 1996 – it is the prelude to this Tuesday night’s fashion retrospective, an event designed to showcase the pieces created by the designer over four decades.
Some 60 outfits will be paraded on the night in a charity event birthed by Jenny’s friend-in-fashion, the stylist Philip Boon.
For Philip, the event is an opportunity to bring to light a cannon of work significant enough to have found placement in museums both in Australia and overseas: as well as having pieces bought by Christies and The Victoria & Albert museums in London, Jenny lays claim to the title of most collected Australian fashion designer by our own National Gallery of Victoria.
For ticket buyers, it’s a chance to experience Jenny’s eclectic-punk fashion sensibility in all its eccentric glory. And it is eccentric, from the clear plastic punk rock ball gown that wouldn’t appear out of place in a Vivienne Westwood runway show, to the reef bikini pieced together with gold scallop shells worn by the 1978 Miss Universe finalist that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Bond girl.
Jenny: “The design, it comes straight from my imagination and in to my hands. For me it’s about creating something amazing that doesn’t look like anything else and that’s why I live on this planet.”
But being an “art clothier” (“someone coined the term for me in 1980 when I showed at the gallery of NSW”) doesn’t always gel with the economic realities of commercial design. Though energised by fellow designers and customers who gave Chapel Street its title as Melbourne’s top retail shopping strip throughout the 1980s and in to the early ‘90s, changes to the industry meant Jenny – since shutting down her business – is more than happy to play her hand at more artistic design collaborations.
Jenny: “It was really good earlier but towards the end… The global fashion landscape has changed. It’s much more slick. Right up until the end I had customers who understood the cost of making a dress that was unique and flattering and different, but those sorts of customers are becoming fewer. Now I design for myself. The commercial Jenny Bannister is gone. I can go back to my early roots and be an artistic fashion designer.”
But first there is the retrospective. It will be, both Jenny and Philip agree, a huge night. Along with the clothing strutted to music will be an auction of one of Jenny’s one-off pieces, an art auction by venue hosts, Deutscher and Hackett, and a concert by – who else? – The Chantoozies.
Oh, and for the grand finale? Philip has made sure the runway is large enough that Jenny has space to shake her groove thing following the finale.
Philip Boon Presents… Jenny Bannister: A Retrospective Fashion Show held in conjunction with Prahran Mission and Deutscher & Hackett gallery. Held Tuesday, May 20, at 7pm. Tickets: $95.
Tickets available through Try Booking