While the future of Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ Powerhouse site in Ultimo may be in limbo, the institution is ready to mambo.
In February it will host the inaugural MAAS Centre for Fashion Ball, which it hopes will become a staple on the Australian fashion calendar akin to New York’s Met Gala.
At the same time, it will also launch its Australian Fashion Fund to raise money for the acquisition of Australian fashion.
“It’s been a step-by-step process for us,” MAAS director Dolla Merrillees told The Australian.
“We launched the first public Centre for Fashion (in Australia) in 2015. We’ve been working with the Australian fashion industry and we’ve recognised that for the Australian industry to be successful and competitive it needs support.
“And so while other institutions focus on the international, we’ve been much more interested in championing Australian designers and positioning them in that international context.”
The acquisition of fashion by Australian galleries and museums has been stepped up significantly in the past couple of years, in direct correlation to the increasing popularity of fashion exhibitions.
The Art Gallery of South Australia recently launched its fashion fund to acquire pieces, while the National Gallery of Victoria has also invested heavily in fashion and its exhibitions.
Vogue Australia editor Edwina McCann says this increase in acquisitions nationally is a positive for the industry, and that sharing between galleries and museums — both in Australia and abroad — is part of a broader remit to promote fashion.
“It also shows that fashion is being taken seriously as an art form, as it should be, and maybe Australia is a little late to the party there,” said McCann. “It’s important to have these collections everywhere for our own exhibitions, but I’m just glad to see people collecting fashion and collecting our designers. It gives them more credibility, more recognition and positions them where they should be.”
McCann and Harpers Bazaar editor Kellie Hush, chairwomen of the Australian Fashion Chamber, will co-host the ball alongside Merrillees.
“If we as competitors can come together because that’s what’s right for the industry, then hopefully the industry will support this event,” McCann said.
British-based online retailers Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter are sponsoring the event, both financially and with gowns that will be donated to the wider fashion collection. This reflects Australia’s position as one of their top markets.
The president of both companies, Alison Loehnis, said: “We admire the genuine creativity, energy and dedication of Australia in the global fashion community and we are proud to be partnering with MAAS on the Centre for Fashion Ball, supporting the education, preservation and promotion of contemporary fashion while looking towards the future of our industry.”
As well as acquisitions, the fund will also support a mentoring program in conjunction with the Australian Fashion Chamber.