Aside from knowing we were to turn up at offsite venue Allpress Studios, there was no reason for attendees to pre-empt that Rachel and Anjali’s show was to be a remarkably refreshing photo print exhibition of their ‘Leave no stone unturned’ A/W ’17 collection, sans models.
As magazine folk and fashion photographers gathered outside the Drake Street location, whiny complaints about the weather were muffled by the hum of anticipation and the pitter-patter of the rain we’d been hoping would hold off. Eventually everyone fell silent for a moment as the paper barriers obstructing our view through the glass doors were torn down to reveal the unique installation.
In true twenty-seven names style, 2016’s show paid homage to a Fashion Week past where photos of iconic Kiwi model Ngahuia Williams lined a gallery’s walls. This time, however, the prints weren’t of new faces but of the designers’ nearest and dearest.
“This year we decided to look closer to home for a higher hit rate. It’s not always about the stars of your favourite Netflix show, or the movers and shakers, or the people winning those gold medals,” they said of their subjects. “More often we’re inspired by our friends, our sisters, our team, our mothers.”
Floating around the gallery were the women of the portraits, brought to life in next year’s effortless winter garments; the same clothes they adorn in the campaign photos shot by James K. Lowe.
In terms of beauty, it was less about the makeup and more about the message: “Each of us brings our own stories and our own beauty to the mix: the hair we hated as a teenager, the freckles we tried to wash off. Why couldn’t we have pencil thin eyebrows like everyone else? Whatever it was that made us different, we wanted to change it. But our mums were right, dammit! That difference is where the beauty lies.”
We’re slightly ashamed to admit that we are often partial to a game of ‘Who Wore It Better?’ – do not act like you aren’t too. But today we appreciated the designers’ desire to highlight that even in the same outfits, we are still individuals. Seeing the ladies amongst the beauty of Mother Nature at the ever moody Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and Woodhill forest in Lowe’s photos prompted said emphasis.
Favourite fabrics included a muted floral pattern on crème silk, cosy gingham and a henna-like design on crushed velvet. Standout pieces were an effortlessly romantic, wool camel coat with oversized lapels and a stiff, navy, raw-silk smock emblazoned with emoji-esque love hearts; a girly dresser’s dream, no doubt.
For those who have been to the pair’s previous shows, you’ll appreciate that the soundtrack is something we often look forward to. Anjali is notorious for upholding that the label’s wearable, feminine garments must always be shown alongside her other love – hard core hip-hop and gangster rap. Today’s installation took everyone by such astonishment that there wasn’t the expected quizzical ‘hmm’ of culturists admiring art; resounding remarks like ‘I’ve got shivers’ and ‘F**k, this is cool’ overtook any music Anjali would have lovingly selected, although we did hear it in the background, but only when listening carefully.
If there’s one thing we learnt from twenty-seven names, it’s that there’s one way to do a show and often the story behind the collection is just as important as the clothes themselves. Okay, that was two things.