The Annual Caramel Animals MBFWA Highlight Review 2017

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | Hair/Makeup Commentary: Claudia Byatt | Editorial Assistant: Kelsey Decker | Front of House and Backstage at MBFWA 2017 |

Caramel Animals presents a retrospective and alternative look at nine MBFWA 2017 shows, captured as our contributors worked furiously behind-the-scenes on adjacent projects.

Now that the glitter has settled (or was it stardust?) we bring you this irreverent and non-comprehensive look back at a few key Resort 18 collections. We also bring you news and interviews from backstage where we rapped with a few of our favourite hair and makeup directors as they worked to embody the designers’ visions in coiffure and cosmetic form.

This year’s review covers (in order of appearance) Alice McCall, Karla Spetic, Steven Khalil, Gary Bigeni, Michael Lo Sordo, C/MEO Collective, Vale Denim, Akira and Romance Was Born.

1.  | Alice McCall |

Alice McCall’s unmistakable style signature is easy to talk about; her profile on the MBFWA site provides all the keywords required. ‘Intricate detailing, season after season […] pretty and feminine, chic and bohemian […] year after year.’ This year, Vogue Australia praised McCall for never ‘hewing too far from [her] core.’ This Australian designer knows how to play to her strengths, with sexy results. Perhaps the show’s press notes sum up her 2018 collection best: ‘Alice McCall’s archetypal rock chick has been let loose in her socialite mother’s closets, she’s pilfered the heirloom Italian couture and is wearing it out to the club.’


2. | Karla Spetic |

This year, Karla’s familiar sport-luxe DNA met with an assortment of geometric, semi-sheer trench coats, a sorbet colour palette, weightless dresses with frilled accents and a modicum of black and white plaid. Prema Hair Director Dale Delaporte’s application of candy pink and ascorbic orange wefts atop the runway models’ hair was a perfect colour match for the flavours of Gelato Messina that appeared backstage just before the show.

| Backstage at Karla Spetic |

Backstage, Dale and the Prema salon team (the go-to for colour with Goldwell) worked briskly to incorporate the aforementioned colour-matched wefts into sleek pigtails and ponies. Part of the process can be seen below. The stylists began by sectioning the models’ hair in preparation for the woven pieces which were then seamlessly fastened into place.

Makeup Director for the show was Mikele Simone for the Bodyshop. ‘The makeup concept is a reflection of the colour design from this collection. So, we’re going for a translucent look, really glowing skin, really natural. The eyes are going to have a really subtle shimmer. It’s all about reflections on the runway. We want to keep the girls really very natural and flawless, basically; fresh faced. Not too heavy, we want to keep it quite light.’

Claudia Byatt ( summarises the makeup look:
‘The faces were translucent. Every aspect of the face was kept simple, including the eyes consisting of a subtle shimmer, perfect for the runway, as the sparkle is captured well under the bright lights. Mikele centred on reflectiveness of the skin, a smart move by the makeup artist in order to grab the audiences’ attention without taking too much away from the designs. The fresh faced look is also extremely popular at the moment. As the saying goes ‘less is more’. This was evident through the shimmer on the eyes and the simple, sheer cheeks.’


3. | Steven Khalil |

While the $100,000 wedding dress that closed his show might have grabbed all the headlines (being the most expensive item shown at MBFWA this year and aimed primarily at Steven’s Middle Eastern market), it was not the only lavish showstopper sashayed down the runway in this collection. True to form, Khalil’s latest red carpet and bridal gowns were an unmitigated reflection of old-school elegance and detailing, adapted for contemporary times. Elizabethan elements met with mid-20th century ‘golden age’ styling in a display of ravishing necklines, bejewelled bodices and millimetre upon inch of intricate detailing.

| Backstage at Steven Khalil |

Backstage, I chatted with Heidi Scarlett King from Revlon about her direction with the makeup look. ‘She’s quite a cool, modern girl but she’s trapped in an old-school traditional world. This is reflected in the makeup look. The lips are almost Elizabethan; they’re stained and then diffused, so they’re done in a modern way but are quite 16th century in shape and texture. The skin is really modern. It’s super natural; almost quite bare and drawn back but still perfect at the same time. There’s a slightly lighter brow, really nicely groomed but lightly groomed. There’s a beautiful sheer, creamy cheek with a pop of a gloss on the top. Also this girl, she loves a bit of mascara, so she’s gone to town on the top. It’s really quite heavy, sort of Parisian cool girl really.’

Claudia Byatt ( summarises the makeup look:
‘The look was contemporary yet classic; the girls wore a textured lip with a natural, creamy sheer cheek paired with a naturally groomed brow. In contrast with that natural appeal, heavy mascara drew attention to the eyes. You can see Heidi’s ‘Parisian cool girl’ concept. The face was fresh and glowy with the focus being on the heavy, almost smoky eyes. The lashes were lengthy due to the generous application of product which made for a stunning look, paired really well the natural elements. There was a deep distinction between face vs eyes. Overall, Heidi hit her mark with a ‘traditional girl reflected in the modern girl’ aesthetic.’


4. | Gary Bigeni |

In his eighth season at Australian Fashion Week, Bigeni regaled with his signature drape, subtly detailed structuring and cleverly curated fabrics. A few pieces evoked a pop-art aesthetic evinced by out-sized polka dot prints in rich blues. The collection exuded considered, modern silhouettes and versatile staples, easily dressed up or down.


5. | Michael Lo Sordo |

Lo Sordo marked his return to MBFWA with the ‘Acceidential [sic] Sécretaire’ collection.

Those familiar with artist Larry Bell’s installation ‘Pacific Red ll’ may pick up the reference in the panels of prismatic Perspex through which models walked during the show. Lo Sordo has constructed dresses, trench coats and pants in striking reds, lipstick pinks and shimmering fabrics, some with small windows cut away to reveal sensually bare flanks and warm woollen undergarments.

| Backstage at Michael Lo Sordo |

Before the show we spoke to Makeup Director Max May, working with Avon. While ‘Acceidential Sécretaire’ lends itself to a ‘sexy secretary’ theme, Max wanted to create something more individual and tailored to each girl. He pointed out the militaristic feel of some of the looks. ‘There are the secretaries and the Army girls, they’re the sergeants of the secretaries. So, there’s a nude high gloss across the eyelid, which is about giving them a kind of young, fresh, futuristic feel. I wanted the girls to be really beautiful, to feel great and confident. I’m not turning them into anything other than what they are, I’m not forcing it at all. It’s just about them looking really glowing, fresh, and youthful.’

Claudia Byatt summarises the look: ‘The nude high gloss across the eyelid adds a youthfulness and radiance to the base. The attitude was that the models should feel confident, and with such bare makeup the look is kept natural and glowing. The look is far from forced. Some models wore a completely nude lip, while others sported a bright red matte lip. Others still wore a gloss. The high points of the faces were glowing, with highlighter placed on the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead. The brows were natural and subtle. The base was wet and shiny, which made for a very elegant face.’

Backstage, prominent Australian male model Zac Stenmark made an appearance. This may have escaped my notice, but for the solid gold Rolex GMT Master II atop his wrist, which he reports having lusted after since seeing one as an eight year old boy. Having gone on to acquire the watch at the tender age of 22, Zac has since been seen sporting the haute horologie piece in a Vogue fashion video, previously aired at MBFWA.

Fashion blogger Adriana from was also present, sporting a denim jacket bearing an impressively sequined applique, paraphrasing a French translation of Ice Cube’s meme-biquitous pronouncement, ‘Bye Felecia’.

So organised was the cosmetic preparation that there was also time for sushi noshing and the brandishing of several good reads among models. Seen swotting below are Ashlee Allend and Billie Adams.


6. | C/MEO Collective |

Cameo Collective took the unusual approach of having front row guests seated among floral arrangements on the runway itself, with models weaving through them during the show.

The collection itself featured a mixture of botanical prints and long dresses in a broad tropical colour palette composed of light, bright hues and darker, more subtle pigments. Shirting, bejewelled detailing and asymmetric hemlines all made an appearance. Faux-fur stoles in a range of coral pinks slung over the shoulder made for a bold complement.

| Backstage at Cameo Collective |

Before the show I chatted with Nigel Stanislaus, Makeup Director for Maybelline New York. I asked him about his concept for the show. ‘Today at C/MEO we’re going to give the girls a beautiful blushed coral monochromatic look, where we play on the eyes, the cheeks and the lips. It’s not really a natural look, it’s a beautiful look. She’s quite polished. She’s also romantic; she’s blushing because there’s that romance element to it.’

I asked Nigel about his brief for the show. ‘When I spoke to Siham [Elmawey, head designer for C/MEO] she told me how she was in love with the colours and I said ‘Oh, it’s such a workable palette for me.’ This peach, coral blush and even bronze for the deeper skinned girls, it works on anyone, and it’s such a vacation look. It’s almost like going for honeymoon colours. I can see every girl wearing it, it’s a very universal aesthetic. It shows youth, it shows health. They all have wonderful skin – it’s pretty. A holiday or vacation sort of skin – they all look happy!’

Claudia Byatt ( summarises the C/MEO makeup look: ‘The bright coral colours drew attention to the eyes, cheeks, and the lips. This worked well as the chosen tones match any skin colour. For those with deeper skin tones, bronze was added. The versatile palette made for a great universal aesthetic. The overall look made for a youthful, radiant base, reflecting the holiday vibe and concept.’


7. | Vale Denim |

Resort 2018 marked Vale Denim’s MBFWA debut. The label was founded in 2015 by designer Amber D’Ennett. Nautical reds, whites and blues and the occasional splash of citric yellow warmed this collection of cool, insouciantly easy staples and lovable pieces that could easily span several endless summers in their adoptive wearer’s wardrobe.

| Backstage at Vale Denim |

Backstage, Vale made the adorable move of handing out individually embroidered keepsake indigo denim jackets bearing the name of each model in the show.

Teneille Sorgiovanni from the Work Agency directed Makeup backstage, using Ella Bache skin products and incorporating Artemis Lashes. I asked her about the concept:

‘Well, today is all about the Vale girl being really beautiful, with raw, fresh skin so we’re celebrating skin and going heavy with the skincare – like a beautiful facial, really. Natural, super fresh and not overly glowy. We’re just proclaiming the skin in its natural form. Like the Vale girl, there’s also a little creative twist, so what we’ve done with Artemis Lashes is give the eyes a little accent towards the end. We’ve used some individual lashes and then done a little emphasis at the corners of the eyes, just to lift it all up and make it all look beautiful.’

Redken Hair Director John Pulitano explains how the concept behind the hair look was arrived at:

‘We wanted a young, preppy kind of look, almost like the girls really didn’t touch their hair. Obviously, it takes a long time to get a look like that, so we had to blow-dry it first then tong it. We used [Redken] Rootful to blow-dry. Then we tonged, and used Windblown, right in between with a dry shampoo and mist of hair-spray. Then, half an hour before they were ready to go out, we added a tiny bit of water just to bring back that natural feel and brushed it through. It just sat perfectly. We were lucky – we didn’t have that many dos to deal with, so it was pretty easy.’

I asked John how open the brief for the show was. He talks about working with Mark Vassallo, the Creative Director for this showcase. ‘He knows what he wants, he’s amazing. He gets great results. So, with the hair, it needed to have a natural element, and a bit of toughness; a bit of attitude this season, I think. I’ve had a bit of attitude with the hair looks – attitude but really beautiful. There’s a way to do voluptuous, wavy hair without making it look too beautiful.’


8. | Akira |

One of Australia’s favourite designers, Akira Isogawa debuted his latest collection at MBFWA this year. I spoke with Redken Hair Director Richard Kavanagh backstage before the show. He summarised the influences captured in the fashion look perfectly. ‘Mid-80’s, urban hip-hop circa Brooklyn. Very street, earthy, a little bit dirty […] That combined with a Belgian design aesthetic […] there’s a non-gender conformity in the shape.’ Admittedly Richard was alluding to his hair concept but his words are echoed perfectly in the images below. That aesthetic was punctuated with more eastern style, easy-falling garments, strongly evoking an uplifted kung-fu gi. Tube socks capped off the look by channelling in some ‘Harlem Globetrotter’ basketball vibe.

| Backstage at Akira |

More from Richard Kavanagh. ‘Akira doesn’t really give me a brief, he just shows me the clothes and then says “come up with something”. There’s a couple of words that they shared with me about their interpretation of what’s inspired the collection. So, a couple of the words that I took away from that to work on the hair shape, were mid-80’s, urban hip-hop circa Brooklyn. Very, kind of, street, earthy, a little bit dirty, very flat. That’s combined with a Belgian design aesthetic, so there’s a masculinity to the shapes. I think actually that there’s a non-gender conformity in the shape. That’s what I wanted to create.

‘Androgyny’ I ask?

Richard continues. ‘It’s not really Androgyny actually. Androgyny is where boys are dressed as girls, and girls are dressed as boys, but in this it’s just a non-gender specific. It’s actually, pure gender-neutral. The hair shape’s very, very square in its silhouette, it’s kind of reminiscent of an old comb-over. Imagine if you did a big fat comb over and then you put a hat on, and left in on for days, and then took it off. So, there’s some intentional accidents within the texture, a little bit too much hairspray, some asymmetry in the silhouette, but it very much has elements of that Belgian design aesthetic.’

I chatted with Lara Srokowski, National Makeup Director for Lancome Australia, about the faces for the show.

‘The look we’re going for today is very versatile. Because there’s seven female models and seven males, we wanted something that was going to complement both. It really is a beautiful focus on the actual skin so, we’re using our famous [Lancome] skincare product, Advanced Genifique to really give luminosity and radiance to the skin prior, then using foundation that’s lightweight, therefore looking super natural on the skin. We’re contouring and highlighting, really ensuring that skin is the key focus of the look. The lips and the eyes are kept quite nude.’ I ask Lara about her brief for the show from the designer. ‘Well, we had a bit of a chat and because the clothing is quite colourful, we decided to keep the makeup quite toned down. For us as a brand that worked perfectly, because we’re all about the skin.’


9. | Romance Was Born |

Romance Was Born returned to MBFWA this year, to send their latest collection down the main runway in a spectacularly balearic and matchlessly colourful finale to Resort ’18. ‘Electro Orchid’ seemingly opened the gateway to a chimeric, parallel mystery universe populated by rock angels, punk devils, disco sartyrs, electro unicorns and anarchically graffed-up nymphs. Soft ‘carwash brush’ tassles, intricate sequined appliques, metallic details and swirling fringes came out in parallel with pieces more recognisable as ready-to-wear wardrobe items, and one killer Idol-esque proto-wedding dress.