Established in 1851, Bendigo is a provincial town of note, with grand Victorian and Edwardian public buildings and modern shopping centres that altogether present an eclectic mix of architecture that is a testimony to the town’s history. Befitting a town that blends the old with the new, the Bendigo Art Gallery has become a mirror of its surrounding landscape through the building in which it resides and the permanent collections and exhibitions that are showcased. Definitely on the side of the new is the latest exhibition entitled, Maticevski: Dark Wonderland. As Bendigo has preserved its heritage and embraced the future, so too has the extraordinary fashion designer Toni Maticevski with the bounty of his creativity now on show for all to see.
Fashion and the Bendigo Art Gallery have a past relationship, with memorable exhibitions such as The White Wedding Dress: 200 Years of Wedding Fashions in 2011, Grace Kelly: Style Icon in 2012 and Marilyn Monroe in 2016. With Maticevski: Dark Wonderland, there is now another exhibition of textiles, design and style, but this time the handiwork is that of a living, homegrown personality. The business of Maticevski was established in 1999 and over the past 17 years his style and brand have developed exponentially. Maticevski: Dark Wonderland is a curated retrospective of some 63 ensembles, made up of multiple parts, from the designer’s own archive. It seems that every garment made, every workbook, drawing and accoutrement has been kept and preserved by Maticevski in order to make this exhibition possible. Whether by design or a serendipitous occurrence, the fact that Maticevski’s archives are so detailed has ensured that Dark Wonderland is a rich visual documentation of his work through time and place.
Curator of the exhibition, Leanne Fitzgibbon has painstakingly reviewed all items in the archive to collect and collate styles, themes and time periods commencing the process in 2012.
Mannequins have been grouped together primarily by garment colour and this is the unifying factor throughout the several rooms of the exhibition. Giant screens display videos of catwalk footage, and wall-mounted televisions play videos on continual loops to explain garments, philosophy and special moments in the designer’s career. Also showcased are various theatrical costumes that present another side to the fashion designer’s talent. Of special note are the ballet costumes designed for the Sydney Dance Company, the Australian Ballet and Philip Adams’ BalletLab. The displays reinforce Maticevski’s expertise and originality outside the bounds of high fashion and it is evident that, through these collaborative endeavours with theatre, the designer has stretched his prowess to an even greater level of creativity.
Maticevski’s skill as a fashion designer is obvious. His forms are concurrently soft and sharp, flowing and linear, and there is a robust quality to his work with the use of strong colours, texture and geometric patterns. His designs cling to the body and accentuate curves, colour blocks trick the eye and minimise a line or accentuate a feature. The garments take on a sculptural form as they cover the body, yet make their own statement, and this is the essence of the curated collection, ‘clothes sculptures’ that are designed to move.
One of the standout rooms in the exhibition is the orchid room. Here, black and white is the order of the day with walls and floor covered in a graphic orchid design and a large glass cabinet with several mannequins fitted with gowns, ensembles, dresses and coats in multiple black and white patterns with just a splash of colour to ease the eye.
Maticevski: Dark Wonderland showcases garments, but also various complementary accessories. There are resin necklaces, earrings and bracelets in opaque muted colours, diamante ear cuffs, earrings, harness and handcuffs and discreetly placed pairs of shoes throughout the exhibition. Individual cabinets display special designs; for example, the Take-a-Bow Bustier and Angel Fall Beaded Skirt with Hazard Overcoat complemented by Dr Lisa Cooper’s Flower Composition, pure theatre for the catwalk. One room within the exhibition is given over to the working papers, books and drawings that document Maticevski’s career. From an astounding collection of thousands of workbooks and papers, a selection has been made to showcase the hand-drawn authenticity of his creative largesse.
Maticevski: Dark Wonderland is indeed a wonderland for fashion aficionados and the general public alike and the exhibition design, by the aptly named Studio Wonder, has presented a visual feast for all the senses. The longevity and relevance of Maticevski’s designs coupled with the ingenuity of his style and the breathtaking attention to detail given to every garment, is a lesson in fashion design perfection.