International Women’s Day | REBIRTH: Mana Couture & Social Studio | Dinner with Mum

As I mentioned in my post, FEFINE|Woman, I was planning on spending International Women’s Day (Tuesday) cooking up Pacific food with some South Pac women before heading over to see a fashion show of the collaboration between Mana Couture and The Social Studio. As it turned out, something urgent came up, along with an unholy headache (caused by film noir movie marathon the previous evening… I’m a goose), and I was not able to stuff my face with food 😦 . I did, however, manage to get down to the Collingwood Underground Carpark to see the fashion show. Before enjoying a lovely dinner with my Mum at a Lebanese joint on Lygon Street, on what was a strangely lovely, balmy evening.

International Women’s Day

The day, March 8, is an official day of celebration of the achievements of women across the globe, and a time to reflect on the fight for equality that continues today. It was first observed in 1911.

This is a great short documentary commissioned by UN Women Australia on the day, its importance. It gives an overview of what ‘womens’ liberation’ has meant in the past, what it means today, and where it is going in future:

Although the official day has passed, IWD events will be continuing through the rest of the month.

The official International Women’s Day website contains details on all registered events, sorted by country and location. Have a look through them here:

You can also upload details of your own event.

I think it is crucial that younger women in Australia understand just how and why they came to have the rights that they do – eg. the right to vote, reproductive rights, no-fault divorce, changes to sex crimes laws and the right to be educated. One only has to read about past attitudes towards women – and the conditions they lived in – to understand how far we’ve come in this country. That’s not to say that there isn’t much room for improvement (the rape statistics are still unacceptable. And women still earn 84c for every male dollar).

But the barriers (cultural, educational, economic, legal, physical) that women face and are seeking to overcome around the world vary dramatically (the issues concerning western women and women in the Congo, for example).

There is, however, in Australia, one particular women’s right/human right issue that does not get much press coverage: the sexual abuse of women with intellectual disabilities under care in Australia. I intend to write a post on this particular topic in future.

For now, let me tell you about an awesome woman named Grace and the excellent venture she started.

The Social Studio

The Social Studio (TSS) is, in my humble opinion, the very definition of cool. Founded by young visionary Grace McQuilten in 2009, it is a Melbourne based design house and social enterprise, that empowers talented young people in the refugee community by providing a tangible avenue through which to overcome some of the main barriers that new arrivals often face: unemployment, isolation, and difficulties accessing training & education.

TSS is both a fashion house and training facility – young trainees have the opportunity to obtain qualifications in retail, fashion and hospitality, whilst honing their production skills through creating original garments from recycled and excess manufacturing materials gathered from local industry.

Combining practicality, creativity, and progressive values/social conscience…  cool, cool, cool. What an awesome WOMAN Grace is to have started this!

I don’t follow fashion and have, shall we say, a “style”(i.e.unemployed-writer/student) of my own… but I really appreciate unique garments, and the people with the cahones to create and/or wear them. TSS designs don’t necessarily follow fashion trends, and that is precisely why I like them.

Here are two clips on TSS, first by Namila Benson on Arts Nation:

TSS is at 128 Smith St, Collingwood… and on here, too.

Mana Couture

Mana Couture™ is the jewellery of Samoan-Australian artist, Maryann Talia Pau.

Mana Couture explores adornment as a means to explore ceremony, place and identity. Each work is drawn from Maryann’s love for her heritage, people and island home, Samoa.

I actually saw her work long before I met her last year (her work was exhibited at the National Gallery of Victoria). I love her creations… traditional craft meets modern couture. I love her work for the same reason I do TSS creations… they don’t create to keep up with trends. They create from their own minds, souls.

Here is a gallery of some of her creations:

The philosophy behind her creative process is equally beautiful. In her own words:

Each work is an offering of who I am, who I love and honour. Every piece comes from love. For me it has to. Love for who I am, for my family, our earth, our land, our people. Always love. Because love is power.”

Keep your diamonds. I’m loving the Mana bling.

REBIRTH: a collaboration

REBIRTH featured the new collection from The Social Studio, TSS3, comprising rich velvets and lustrous silks in a pallete of creamy pastels, inky blues, charcoal, fiery reds and orange, and accessories from Mana Couture.

To create it, TSS utilised techniques inspired by Mana Couture, including hand-dyeing and spectacularly detailed pleating.

And look! They’ve already turned the show into a music video:

[Music: Asobi Seksu “Perfectly Crystal” (Mirrors’ Un Autre Monde Remix). Nice camera used here. I can see myself in two shots though, lol]

It was nice to spot Adam Bandt and his cute-as-a-button partner Claudia, who have supported TSS, runway side. I last saw Adam Bandt at the Moonlight Cinema a few weeks ago, when he introduced David Suzuki before the screening of the great documentary A Force of Nature [which I wrote about here].  Adam and Claudia were dressed by The Social Studio on cup day last year.

And the fair-skinned model at 2:39 is artist Bindi Cole. Bindi is an emerging Aboriginal photographic artist based in Melbourne. Her 2008 Not Really Aboriginal made waves, exploring the contestation of light-skinned, urban-based Aboriginal people’s identity, and what it means to be a Victorian indigenous person in the 21st century. I found her Sistagirls exhibition on transgendered women in the Tiwi Islands last year really fascinating.

She also curated this great exhibition on Aboriginal Spirituality last year, called Nyahbunyar (a Wathaurung word meaning ‘temple’):

Here is a short video on her (from GenerationOne):

After REBIRTH it was dinner in Carlton with my Mum, followed by chai mint tea and bed. Apart from the headache and the morning crisis, it was a nice day, really.


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