In the early 20th Century when the Ballet Russes staged its first appearance, it was hailed as one of the most innovative productions. A collaboration between the world’s leading dancers, composers, artists and designers of the times, the shows created a spectacle that would surely rival even the most well funded of productions today. Imagine artists like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse (to name a few) collaborating with ground breaking choreographers and dancers such as Vaslav Nijinsky and composers Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy and Sergei Prokofiev.
Costuming for the shows featured intricate designs, vivid colours and paired textures that would have broken many of the conventions of the time. The theatricality, the drama and bold mixture of colours which would have seemed very avant garde to audiences back then are however entirely at home in today’s fashion world. Just ask one of Australia’s leading designers, Lisa Ho, who drew inspiration from the Ballet Russes for her own Spring/Summer 2012 collection.
The show which was appropriately staged in the Art Gallery of NSW opened with a splash of candy striped colour, some with sharp edges, others softened with floral prints and bright blocks of colour. Yellow blocks flashed in sudden bursts, sometimes just a small accent like a jacket and other times as a cocktail dress or sumptuous gown.
The sophistication of this collection reflects Lisa Ho’s journey, her 30 years experience and most importantly her self confidence. Her whimsy, an imagining of the Ballet Russes taking a tropical tour, is beautifully executed featuring elegant prints with rich greens accented by red and yellow hibiscus. These made the greatest impression when used in the long flowing maxis and resort style robes. I’m hoping they will inspire a collection of scarves – for which I would be a willing consumer!
There were the more traditional but equally delightful signature Lisa Ho gowns, featuring long bodices, beading and in ballerina pinks and whites which hark back to her beginnings. However we get the distinct impression Lisa Ho is always on the move, hooked on innovation and not just as it applies to the design direction of her collections.
After the show she spoke to us about the launch of the Lisa Ho website where her customers can buy her collections online. “Customers are going online because they are looking for choice. We want to offer them that option whether they are here in Australia or elsewhere. Online shopping is making it a global market and we want to participate in that market.”
Just as the Ballet Russes revolutionised dance productions there are undoubtedly other forces that are changing the way the fashion design industry will operate into the future. Somehow I get the impression that innovators and adapters like Lisa Ho will survive for some time to come.