Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Akira Isogawa

Akira Isogawa

Romance Was Born store opening

Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson

Katie Pye window display 1981








Avant Garde clothing, better known as ‘grunge’ or ‘recycled’ fashion, marked a rebellion against the excesses of the eighties as well as a desire to express ones individualism through clothing. The beginning of this period in fashion design can probably be traced back earlier, to a subculture fashion trend called ‘Punk’, an early manifestation of deconstructionist or Avant Garde clothing.

This international trend caught on in Australia at a similar time as can be seen by the emergence of the highly unorthodox fashion label, ‘Katie Pye’ by designer Katie Pye. This clothing brand defined a distinct shift away from the conventional modes of fashion in Australia in the seventies and eighties. The highly controversial and somewhat theatrical clothing of Katie Pye had humble beginnings.

Pye began her practice in the early seventies. After studying art at the East Sydney Technical College, she tried her hand at cooking but discovered that her true love was making clothing. Pye’s conceptual approach to fashion began early in her career when she screen printed erotic art onto Japanese Kimono’s, suggesting that clothing was more than just a garment and perhaps a vehicle of expression. Pye said of her clothing, that each garment had its own persona. She sold her clothing at the then hip and edgy, Paddington Markets in Sydney. A little later her first concept clothing store, Duzz’nt Madder, opened in 1976. Katie Pye’s designs continued to wow audiences through the eighties and gradually becoming a little more mainstream. Pye continued to design and produce edgy clothing through the nineties, closing her Brisbane boutique in 2009. Today she designs for theatre and private clients.

Other Australian designers of this experimental period also recognized a change in consumer attitude. The need to express one’s individuality through wearing edgy designs, was a growing market especially in women’s clothing. Two Sydney designers, Jenny Kee and her partner, Linda Jackson also gained notoriety and success with their ‘Art Clothes’, eventually being recognized on the international scene. Their range of brightly coloured knitwear displayed an eclectic mix of Australian bush motifs as well as borrowing images from African and Asian cultures. Their garment construction was simplified in order to show off the art they displayed. Jenny Kee felt strongly about these garments being works of art to be worn rather than just an item of dress.

These designers popularity diminished and gave way to new designers who are equally unorthodox but perhaps more sophisticated. Today, Easton Pearson and Akira Isogawa too name a few, are Australian designers, whose International and local success, can be attributed to the Avant Garde fashion designers of the seventies and eighties.

Geczy, A & Karaminas, F 2012, ‘Clothing: Art Clothes or Wearable Art?’, in Fashion and Art, 1st edn, Berg, London, pp. 145-154.

National Gallery of Victoria, Katie Pye Clothes for Modern Lovers, Viewed 17 August 2014, http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/exhibitions/katie-pye

The Fashion Archives, People and Places, Katie Pye, Viewed 15 August 2014, http://thefashionarchives.org/?people_and_places=katie-pye

The Sydney Morning Herald, Renegade Kate, Viewed 17 August 2014, http://www.smh.com.au/news/fashion/renegade-kate/2007/05/25/1179601636987.html

The Sydney Morning Herald, Renegade Kate, Viewed 17 August 2014, http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/?irn=191857

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vivienne Westwood and the Postmodern Legacy of Punk Style, Viewed 17 August 2014, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/vivw/hd_vivw.htm

Vogue Australia, Akira Isogawa, Viewed 24 August 2014, http://www.vogue.com.au/people/designers/akira+isogawa,1

Vogue Australia, Easton Pearson, Viewed 24 August 2014, http://www.vogue.com.au/people/designers/easton+pearson,93