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Silhouettes: Fashion in the Shadow of HIV/AIDS

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Showcasing over 120 pieces of fashion, art and ephemera

Now on display at The David Roche Foundation until 18 June, Silhouettes: Fashion in the Shadow of HIV/AIDS is one of the first exhibitions in the world to examine the profound and long-lasting effect of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the fashion industry.

The couture of Halston, Patrick Kelly, Chester Weinberg, Giorgio di Sant'Angelo, and Fabrice Simon.

Across more than 120 pieces of fashion, art and ephemera, this exhibition, guest curated by Skye Bartlett, explores the lives and works of some of fashion's brightest stars from the late 20th century who died of AIDS-related illness, and serves as a timely and powerful reminder of their contribution to fashion during a pivotal moment in history.

On display are works by the who's who of the fashion world of the 1960s to the 1980s, from household names like Halston and Moschino, Silhouettes also features work from revolutionary black designers Patrick Kelly, Fabrice Simon and Willi Smith, and now forgotten talents like Clovis Ruffin and Chester Weinberg.

The exhibition is sourced from private and public collections from the UK, Europe, US and Australia, and tells a story of changing hemlines, changing worlds and changing attitudes - from the earliest reactions shunning and ostracising those who contracted HIV to the later concerted efforts to face the disease and seek a cure. The exhibition marks 40 years since the emergence of HIV/AIDS and comes at a time when the world's attention is very much on the devastating impacts of yet another global pandemic.

(l to r) Sal Traina (USA), Chester Weinberg with model 1968, photographic print. Courtesy of the Fairchild Archive, USA. Chester Weinberg (USA 1930-1985), Cocktail dress Spring/Summer, 1968, silk. On loan from a private collection, Adelaide

One of the early victims of the disease - and of the stigma surrounding it - was the exceptional Chester Weinberg, whose designs defined the 'mod' movement of the 1960s and early 1970s, and whose influence permeates modern fashion and design.

His vibrantly chic Cocktail dress from his 1968 Spring/Summer collection opens the exhibition with elegance and style. Here he is returned to the spotlight, and celebrated once again for his impact on fashion. Weinberg's couture stands proudly across from those of that fashion giant of the 1970s and 1980s, Halston.

(l to r) Roy Halston Frowick (USA 1932-1990), Ultrasuede suit, 1975, ultrasuede, satin, wool. On loan from a private collection, Adelaide. Roy Halston Frowick (USA 1932-1990), Evening cloak, 1975, satin. On loan from Harlo, Sydney

The genius of Halston is amply demonstrated in a series of dresses, day suits and hats that speak to his incredible eye, including a glorious Ultrasuede suit from 1975; the use of which fabric redefining American fashion of that era. A wonderful variety of accessories abound in the front showcase, including some delightfully whimsical animal shoes by the once fêted Japanese designer, Tokio Kumagaï, which were so sought after in their day, and seeing them on display here - the rooster and swan examples - one can understand why.

Couture by Patrick Kelly and Willi Smith

Through the centre gallery is a wing dedicated to leading black fashion designers, such as Willi Smith - with bright and pioneering works that blurred the lines of gendered fashion, his WilliWear being the first to create women's and men's wear under the same label - Patrick Kelly and Fabrice Simon, whose sleek couture was once favoured by many a celebrity for Hollywood awards ceremonies on account of their rumoured ability to assist in the wearer's success on the night.

Couture by Moschino, including (second from left) Franco Moschino (Italy 1950-1994), Dress, 1992, wool, cotton, silk, metal. On loan from a private collection, Adelaide and (far right) Rossella Jardini (Italy b.1952) for Moschino, Red ribbon blazer, 1995, satin, silk faille, plastic. On loan from a private collection, Paris

Moschino is the final designer on display, with works both by the man himself as well as by his successors at the Moschino brand - his cheeky parody of the high fashion Chanel label being a particular delight. However, most effecting are works by the company that remember their founder and highlight their ongoing crusade against the disease that took his life: the powerful Red ribbon blazer from 1995, and the more recent and more controversial Jeremy Scott-designed 2018 Ready to Wear collection, including a handbag and jewellery. Notably, Moschino stands as one of only two designers in the exhibition - the other being Perry Ellis - whose atelier survived their diagnosis and passing.

After Moschino, the exhibition moves from celebration of the lost designers to recognising the efforts of activists in bringing the scourge of the HIV/AIDS pandemic to the forefront of the world's social consciousness - a wall of t-shirts presenting just some of the many campaigns through the 1990s onwards focussed on finding a way to stay safe and rid the world of this terrible pandemic, and an Australian AIDS quilt panel, a powerful memorial to some of those gone too soon.

Activist t-shirts. On loan Australian Queer Archives, Melbourne.

The exhibition concludes with a poignant reminder of just how many figures in the fashion industry were lost to AIDS-related illness with an honour roll of designers, window dressers, models and more, and a timeline showing the history of the disease from its first recognition to the present day.

Silhouettes: Fashion in the Shadow of HIV/AIDS is a powerful and timely reminder of the incredible skill and talent that was lost to the AIDS pandemic, which seeks to not only commemorate those lost, but also revise the narrative around them and recognise their enormous contribution to the fashion world.

Silhouettes: Fashion in the Shadow of HIV/AIDS is now showing at The David Roche Foundation House Museum until 18 June 2022. Presented in partnership with SAMESH.

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10 AM-4 PM. No booking required.

Entry: $12 adult. $10 concession. Children under 12 free.

Guided tours: Friday 11:15am (registration required, visit website to register).

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When: 29 January to 18 June 2022 / Tuesday to Saturday 10AM - 4PM
Where: The David Roche Foundation, 241 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide, Adelaide
Cost: Exhibition Entry: $12 adult. $10 concession. Children under 12 free.
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