Fashion exhibit uncloaks Australia's identity

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Fashion exhibit uncloaks Australia's identity

"There was lots and lots of snow and I was very depressed," Meredith Rowe said about her first memory of Korea. With the snow now but a memory, however, Ms. Rowe brought to Korea some good ole Australian surfwear as part of the "Australian Fashion and Textile Design Exhibition" at Fashion Center Korea in Daegu.

The exhibition, which opened Friday, features the works of 14 Australian designers, including Mambo, a brand famous for having a spirit of larrikin - slang for mischievous youth, often found on the beach and in the water, the sunshine-loving surf culture.

Mambo is only a part of the show, which runs until April 5. The exhibition represents a cross-section of the complex Australian identity. If the range of items shown is any indication, the pulse of Australian design is as rich and quirky as the island's history. Jewish, Greek, Italian, Vietnamese and Chinese, among other Mediterranean and Asian cultural groups, collectively form the backbone of the textile industry.

One display features an appliqued floral skirt, scarf and shawl by Akira Isogawa, Australia's most eminent contemporary fashion designer. Another display shows off the traditional weave designs by Sara Lindsay, who studied kasuri weaving at Kawashima Textiles School in Kyoto, Japan.

Ms. Rowe's own works are included - three lengths of cyanotype on Korean ramie fabric and hemp. In cyanotype printing, the fabric becomes the negative. The images were created by placing seed pods and leaves of Australian plants on moshi, a textile made of ramie, a type of plant.

Ms. Rowe, a textile designer, came to Korea in February 2001 as an artist in residence at Kookmin University in Daegu. She said she was captivated by the beauty of Korean wrapping cloth and embroidery. "But I didn't know much else," she said.

During her seven months in Korea, Ms. Rowe found inspiration in food, traditional costume and, most of all, the role of women. "There's such a connection with women historically in domestic chores from handmade linen to making food."

Ms. Rowe is now back in Australia, where she is preparing for the Melbourne Fashion Festival, which opens Thursday. She will relocate to London in June.

by Joe Yong-hee

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