The definitive Spring Racing wrap-up
Who's saying what
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.
Emirates hosted the likes of Eddie McGuire, Kevin Rudd, Lillian Frank and welcomed Mischa Barton on Melbourne Cup Day – the former O.C star mingled with guests and wore a conservative Ellery outfit, which wrapped around her like a Buddhist’s monks robe. She was fitted with Philip Treacy’s Spring/Summer 2013 headwear and was trying to extend her stay in Melbourne by a few days.
When Brian McFadden bumped into his mate Ronan Keating in Emirates [who turned up with his new girlfriend Storm Uechtritz], he told him: “Mate, this suit is a bit tighter this year.” Surely it’s a sign of being happy and in love.
We couldn’t get enough of the Gucci Styling Suite. Cleverly positioned in the terrace area of the main grandstand with a perfect view of the finishing post, the designer label’s cream crop of customers were wined and dined here. We spotted Lindy Klim wearing 2013 Gucci resort collection floor length dress in cream while cashed up guests also looked their best. Some wore Gucci outfits from a few years ago like it was a crime; but it was nothing we’d bark at. Instead of hosting a marquee of their own, the Gucci folk decided to keep it intimate with an opportunity to be photographed with the Melbourne Cup too.
She sat beside Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry at Philip Treacy’s London Fashion Week Show and when she walked into the Swisse Marquee as a guest for Oaks Day, Sex and The City starlet Kim Cattrall looked gracious in head to toe creme. A mix of Toni Maticevski, Calvin Klein and Tony Bianco shoes teamed with a Treacy hat. She was all about modest silhouettes and good manners, the antithesis of her small screen character Samantha who made her famous. The 57-year-old English/Canadian actress did have her New York country home destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, but was keeping it all in perspective [we felt sorry for the journalist who thought she was American]. The three-time married star was glad Obama was re-elected. “There was only one choice,” she said, and as far as choosing a Treacy hat went, she said “he brought a bunch of hats to my room and we tried them on and had a glass of champagne and sat down and relaxed and picked one. We are very good friends. I have been spending a lot of time in London lately so I see him a lot.”
Lexus Pavillion welcomed Rose Byrne [wearing bespoke Alex Perry] and her friend and actress Pia Miranda [in a Lisa Ho pantsuit], designer Yeojin Bae [wearing a racy black lace number which she made herself] teamed with a vintage hat and Lara Bingle looking very 70s cool in a floppy Jonathan the Hatmaker fedora.
Myer was light on international names for a reason [to keep costs down], but embraced the locals wholeheartedly with ambassadors Kris Smith, Jennifer Hawkins and Rebecca Judd honouring their duties each race day. Actor Alex Dimitriades looked sleek in Comme de Garcon pants and Sand jacket with an edgy bow tie by Le Noeud Papillon. He was stoked to be DJing later that evening in Shane Warne’s Club 23 at Crown.
Brynne Edelsten was caught lifting her dress to fix her knickers in the Emirates Marquee – she wore her Brownlow pumps [Sergio Rossi peep toes] and an outfit of shiny pink taffeta and French black Chantilly lace by her Moonee Ponds designer.
The Birdcage is where it’s acceptable to stare, perfectly fine to ask celebrities what they’re wearing and nobody would bat an eyelid if asked to have their photo taken. Some choose carbohydrates and beer [James Boags marquee] others want champagne for breakfast and beyond [Mumm marquee], but we couldn’t go past the Lavazza sorbetto [a delicious coffee drink based on a semifreddo] served in a glass cone or the Lexus Design Pavillion for its French champagne, Japanese food [with chefs from Izakaya Den making it while you sat down for special table service]. Best quote arrived on the last day when 80s pop sensation Rick Astley joined Swisse for Stakes Day. The father of a 20 year old daughter who lives in the UK told us: “If I walk out on the streets of Melbourne tonight not one person will know who I am, but in my heyday I would get mugged by nuns who would beg me to sign their bibles.”