You think Melbourne fashion, you think black. So it’s only natural that the Melbourne Spring Fashion Week program includes the inaugural exhibition The Spirit of the Black Dress, a collection of ten interpretations of the wardrobe essential from various up-and-coming Australian designers.

The final ten dresses, selected by designer Joe Saba, trend forecaster and creative strategist Robert Buckingham and FASHIONTREND’s Nikita Papas, interpreted the classic black dress in a variety of beautiful designs. My favourite was Andy Tsang’s creation, a combination of a 50s full-skirted silhouette with Japanese-inspired origami folds at the neckline and an unexpected, subversive tail at the hem – just to give the perfection some rawness. Second up was another structural creation, a tailored dress by Sonya Kraan consisting of folded, flipped out circles which seemed to be held together only by buttons.

Spirit of the Black Dress Georges 195 Little Collins St Melbourne

Spirit of the Black Dress Georges 195 Little Collins St Melbourne

Other designs included Rachael Cassar‘s sleek black and flecked gold gown, made entirely of post consumer textiles, which will be going to London as part of London Fashion Week 2009 Estethica. The fantasy tulle swing dress was a commissioned piece by ex-Project Runway Australia runner up Leigh Alexander Buchanan. Alyana Eau’s exaggerated shoulder-embellished dress has been earmarked by the NGV’s curator for International Fashion and Textiles for her personal wardrobe.

Spirit of the Black Dress Georges 195 Little Collins St Melbourne

In an inspired move, to ensure that the exhibition didn’t just look like a shop window, each mannequin was accompanied by a dramatic, smokey photograph of a red-lipped model with wild teased hair, each of whom brought an edgy angularity to the gowns.

While the clothes were beautiful, what impressed me even more was hearing about the genesis of the project from the young founder. Tullia Jack studied fashion production at Moreton TAFE and merchandising at RMIT. She’s been constantly amazed and inspired by the creative talent surrounding her – but she was aware that of her friends and classmates were working as waitresses and shop assistants to pay the rent. She believed passionately that these exceptional talents should be given a chance to show the world what they could do.

So she gathered together a group of likeminded people who kindly donated their services, such as photographer Christian Blanchard and stylist Jordan Moore, and then with funds from her own pocket she worked on the showcase while keeping down her day job.

We all want to support young Australian talent, but I think it takes a lot of gumption to do something practical about it. I left feeling so impressed by Tullia’s vision, her initiative and her skill in developing such a professionally produced event. She’s hoping that The Spirit of the Black Dress will become an annual fixture and I think she deserves all the support we can give.