The definitive Spring Racing wrap-up
Words: Jane Rocca
The spring racing carnival is over for another year. More than 350,000 people made their way to Flemington to strut their fashion and fashion faux pas, down the booze and maybe back a horse. But the real horsing around took place in the Birdcage – it’s where celebrities and invited guests flock to, parading in marquees that stand side-by-side like a fancy row of terraces. It’s here that booze and catering runs free all day and where celebrity spotting becomes a sport unto itself.
Irish milliner Philip Treacy returned to Melbourne for a second year, this time as the VRC’s international style ambassador. His good friend and client – Melbourne style icon Christine Barro – [who stocks his headpieces in her Flinders Lane boutique] hosted an intimate screening for selected guests at Cinema Nova re-playing Treacy’s London Fashion Week Show.
Treacy, who hadn’t shown at fashion week for 13 years, snubbed the big brands and chose the King of Pop’s clothing to inspire his runway statement, “Michael Jackson's clothes are magic. We hid them in the studio for months and couldn't tell anyone about them. We took out insurance of €40,000 on them.”
Anyway, back to the racing carnival. Legendary UK designer Jeff Banks [he’s one of few who can say George Harrison, 60s model Jean Shrimpton and John Lennon hung out at his London store when it opened in 1975] was also in Melbourne to judge Myer’s Fashions on the Field. When interviewed by a young journalist at the track, Banks noticed her dress was one he had created back in the 70s and asked if he could check the label. Not even the young woman knew she was wearing a classic Banks dress which she happened to borrow from her aunt’s wardrobe. “Can you believe it? I never expected to see that print again. It looked rather familiar,” mused Banks who focuses on menswear and interiors these days.
Otherwise, the spring racing season is all about brand power – from the top tiered chefs who style the menus to the celebrities showcasing design talent. Derby Day’s star attraction Nicole Kidman swanned into the minimalist Swisse marquee wearing a head to toe recycled L’Wren Scott white lace gown with sashes of silk ribbon and a Stephen Jones hat, on which feathers were crafted from recycled bottles. As the new global ambassador for the health vitamin, Kidman will take the brand to the US, Europe and Asian market this coming year. She mingled with guests and took her shoes off to be photographed alongside MasterChef’s George Calombaris who introduced himself, “Hi Nicole, I’m George.” We’re not sure she knew who he was, but she gracefully welcomed his cherubic smile.
Jessica McNamee [Packed to the Rafters] and model Ashley Hart were religiously spotted in Swisse – always mixing up their fashion plate with local labels. They wore Camilla & Marc, Tony Bianco shoes, Bianca Spender and Richard Nylon with McNamee snubbing millinery for fresh flowers instead on the odd occasion.
Lara Bingle sported white leather by Dion Lee and LA based Sophie Monk made an appearance in all her pumped collagen glory [can’t help but think of the Lynx ad she did which is ballsy to say the least]. Brian McFadden and wife Vogue Williams, who were guests of Emirates, took up a spots in the Lavazza party marquee where Williams was a guest DJ on Stakes Day.
American actress Mena Suvari [American Beauty] drew crowds at Lavazza, where white was the colour of choice with international guests. Suvari wore an Aurelio Costarella white dress with detailed epaulettes from the designer's LA showroom.
Roberto Cavalli drew a bigger crowd and larger security crawl than Kidman up the road – the leathery faced Italian designer is like the Iggy Pop of the fashion set – ready to stage dive off the Lavazza podium if he could. He was excited to be in Melbourne and his Australian muse – actress Sharni Vinson – was wearing a dress from his 2013 collection [not available in store yet] that she plucked from his Milan studio when visiting a few months back.
Crown Casino marquee came with new rules this year – timed sessions for journalists to visit and no one could go up to the guests and ask any questions, even about fashion. There was Erica Packer [in fancy Prada and Christian Louboutin] and her new husband James Packer, Sarah Murdoch, fashion photographer Monty Coles who runs theloupe.org and even Victoria’s Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews. The mood was slightly more serious in here – music turned down, food trotted out by some of Crown’s best [Bistro Guillaume and Nobu] and even Shane Warne made an appearance during the season before jetting off to London to be with his fiancé Liz Hurley who was sorely missing him on Twitter.