Splendour in the Grass style report
Who's saying what
Photography by Will Reichelt
As far as a fashion antithesis goes, mud is up there with hot dog eating contests. And yet, there are those occasional flashes of splattered brilliance – Gemma Ward in a feathered cocktail frock and Hunter wellingtons at Glastonbury, the filthy allure of the rugby uniform – moments that were for the most part tragically absent from this year’s Splendour in the Grass.
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but being pelted with hail, lightly toasted by sunshine and then promptly frozen the second the last rays deserted the sky, lead to some stylistic innovations that were more insane than inspired.
At times, one could be forgiven for thinking the whole crud-covered festival was the final day of a particularly kinky fursuit convention, thanks to the proliferation of low-cost animal snuggy suits. Crafted from fabric so flammable the triple-reinforced, two-meter perimeters that fenced the festival’s fires seemed like necessary precautions, they were being sold for less than the price of a pinger by a team of young men attractive enough to convince the impressionable. As temperatures dropped, the unbearably twee all-in-one duckling, dragon, tree frog and Pegasus suits went from madcap to oddly... rational. After-all, it’s the rare and decadent few who can drop a cool three figures on a Sass and Bide jacket purely because their chills are multiplying – though at the Very Small Mall such fripperies were certainly possible.
Speaking of Splendour’s posh shopping alley, this year it included a pop up store for Romance Was Born, alongside the aforementioned Sass and Bide, a One Teaspoon Nail Bar, a Bec and Bridge shop and plenty of iterations of primary festival sponsor Billabong. Being prone to impulse buys, I only wandered through that secluded little corner once, but I did find fashion there, in the form of Vogue’s street style scout Liam McKessar. “It’s hard work,” he confessed as a pair of buttocks sprayed off-puttingly with mud and hanging from ice-cream pink short shorts wandered past. I nodded in agreement.
While most of the punters seemed, like me, unwilling to shop seriously at a festival, there was one store doing roaring trade. Throughout the grounds, more prolific even than the huggy all-in-one animal suits, there were girls crowned with garlands of faux flowers. These Lana Del Reyphalites were sourcing their wreaths from one stall within the Mall, for between $25 and $40 a pop. Troupes of teens in minidresses wandered by with matching floral headbands, plastic petals brushed the chins of tolerant boyfriends as their shivering companions clung to them in the night and some stray flowers lay, like a perfect metaphor for Azealia Banks’ live performance, half-crushed and tarnished in the mud. The only place they failed to appear was on the heads of men, much to my disappointment.
Second only to florals in popularity were the Culturally Insensitive Feathered Headbands, whose malingering presence on the festival circuit single handedly disproves The Secret. I have been manifesting their demise so hard I may as well be John L. O’Sullivan. This year’s most prominent version featured a beaded magic eye at the heart of the headband, with a crescent spray of ratty feathers sticking out from the centre like the world’s most bedraggled sunrise. The day these start looking cool or interesting, all the Jäger on the festival site will turn to peyote and the sky will crack bloodily open and rain down still squirming minnows.
Typically, at a music festival, the most sophisticated (if not the highest risk) style can be found in the VIP area. Alas, this year it was not so. “I saw a girl in fairy wings in there,” confessed my harrowed, bleach-blond friend. I stuck to cardigans, band t-shirts, denim and scowls for most of the weekend, but as she looked pristine in leather shorts and a florescent yellow jumper, she had, more than me, earned the right to complain about such decisions.
As the crowds inside the supposedly special area swelled to sardine proportions, one punter tapped his wrist and in a desperate wail pleaded “what does this even mean?” I know, I know, it’s wrong and elitist and princess-y to snipe that the VIP wasn’t Very enough, but rather than blame the punters*, I decided to ask a few if they felt they’d received their money’s worth. It was, on the whole, hard to find the people who’d actually payed, but those that had, from what they told me, felt fairly gypped by the experience.
Problems of over-crowding were significantly less pronounced in the festival’s three alcohol branded areas, the Smirnoff Cocktail Bar, Jagermeister Hunting Lodge and Strongbow Bar/pirate ship. It speaks to the level of marketing sophistication at Splendour that sponsored bars offered a more pleasant between-band experience than the so-called Gold Bar. That being said, with the exception of the Hunting Lodge, which we immediately re-christened mini-Flinders in honour of its creative director, wild-west decor and coterie of models and hipster chicks, there was no discernible difference in outfits between these bars and the rest of the festival.
Perhaps it was purely environmental factors, but everyone I polled had the same verdict on the crowd. It was “more hectic” than in previous years.
At one stage, on the first night, in a moment I will remember for the rest of my days, a woman with piles of blonde curls and black pupils expanded like coke on a microwaved plate turned and fixed me firmly with her gaze. “YOOOOO-LOOOO” she let out in a treacle-slow moan.
It’s true, you do only live once, so I guess you may as well do it in a mud-covered bunny suit.
*Even though, as any “industry” type worth their salt-and-pepper stubble will tell you, it was certainly all their fault.