The Designers' Guide: Easton Pearson Archive exhibition opens from 23 November 2018 to 22 April 2019. We had the opportunity to talk to Kathryn King, Collections and Curatorial Manger, who is responsible for protecting and conserving the Easton Pearson Archive to discuss the exciting details of what to expect.
Could you tell us a bit about the The Designers’ Guide: Easton Pearson Archive exhibition and how it came into being?
KK: We are so excited about The Designers’ Guide: Easton Pearson Archive. As a Museum, we really wanted to create an exhibition that gave visitors an insight into the journey of a demi-couture garment from inspiration to catwalk; as well as a behind-the-scenes peek at the operations of a fashion house. And of course, we wanted to share some of the stunning garments in the Museum’s Easton Pearson Archive. I think we’ve done all of this and more, creating an exhibition with an appeal beyond fashion.
The Designers’ Guide features 200 garments selected in collaboration with the designers Pamela Easton and Lydia Pearson to reveal their greatest design innovations and techniques. Pamela and Lydia worked with artisans across the world to integrate ancient embroidery, beading and embellishment techniques into their designs, modifying and evolving these practices to create amazingly detailed and original work.
The Designers’ Guide is our first exhibition from Museum of Brisbane’s Easton Pearson Archive. Just over a year ago Dr Paul Eliadis, a contemporary art and design patron, donated 3,300 Easton Pearson garments to the Museum, and to this collection Pamela Easton and Lydia Pearson added more than 5,000 objects, accessories and ephemera to complete the Easton Pearson Archive. We believe it is the largest collection from a single Australian fashion house held by a museum or art gallery and it provides an extraordinarily rich insight into the evolution of fashion in Australian from 1989-2016, the social history of Brisbane, and, most particularly, the design and techniques of two of Australia’s most successful fashion designers.
This will be the first of many exhibitions from the Archive.
You had an abundance of resources in the Archive, but were there any challenges faced during the curation of this exhibition?
KK: Knowing where to start! When you have 3,300 designer garments and all this amazing supporting material to choose from it was difficult not to be overwhelmed. In the end, after many months of conversation and bandying many different ideas around, we were most compelled by Pamela and Lydia’s commitment to experimentation and innovation and how this took them on an international journey and into the homes and workshops of artists and artisans around the world. This is the story we wanted to tell.
With over 200 garments on display, there would be an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes preparation involved. Can you give us a small insight into what that process looks like?
KK: Textiles are the most difficult of all historical and art objects to conserve. They require an enormous amount of conservation work, very specific conditions and detailed specialist knowledge. This is where our Collections Team has really come to the fore and it has been a steep and wonderful learning curve. We’ve worked with Louise McCullagh, (@thetextileconservator) who has worked on fashion exhibitions across the world including the National Gallery of Victoria’s House of Dior, as well as consulted with other fashion and textile specialists.
On top of the conservation and collection work for each garment, it can take hours to dress a form or mannequin. We have been dressing the 60 forms for The Designers’ Guide for four weeks, as each one has to be padded and stitched and held in place perfectly, steam-cleaned and then caped to protect it as it awaits mounting in the exhibition space.
What is the most interesting or surprising piece of information people will learn from the Easton Pearson exhibition?
KK: The Designers’ Guide: Easton Pearson Archive reveals the artistry of the label, but it also celebrates Pamela and Lydia’s leadership in two highly topical areas today – sustainable and ethical fashion.
As visitors to the exhibition will discover, Pamela and Lydia were dedicated, through their own aesthetic and morality, to creating clothes that could be worn by generations, and indeed have been, and to ensuring good conditions and creative respect for all the artisans they worked with.
They are an inspiring pair. We can all learn a lot from their approach to fashion and business.
Do you have a favourite work that is on display?
KK: I love the drama of the Balano Dress. When we think of Easton Pearson it is most often the bold, colourful prints and relaxed shapes that characterised their later collections. The Balano Dress reveals how Easton Pearson also delivered true glamour that still has the power to take your breath away.
What would be the top highlight of the exhibition?
KK: That’s an impossible question for a Collections Manager! However, I do love the cheeky aesthetic of the ‘Moki Room’ in the exhibition. Stephen Mok is a Brisbane artist that collaborated with Easton Pearson for many years, designing motifs that were used on garment embroidery and beading, hand-painting garments and accessories and designing shop displays, runway shoes and many other bits and pieces for the fashion house.
He has painted a mural and created these whacky masks in the final room of the exhibition that showcases the bold patterns that Easton Pearson are best known for and it is so much fun, people will really, really enjoy it. My team posed for a number of selfies when we were putting it together.
Completed by Kathryn King, Collections and Curatorial Manager, responsible for protecting and conserving the Easton Pearson Archive.
Tickets to The Designers’ Guide: Easton Pearson Archive (23 Nov 18 – 22 Apr 19) are now on sale. Prices are $12 / $9 for concessions / Children U12 free. Book at museumofbrisbane.com.au