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.’

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MBFWA 2016 In Parting: A Tiny Runway Review


Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | Image Selections: Chloe Crawford | Front of House at MBFWA 2016 |

Caramel Animals presents: a retrospective and alternative look at five MBFWA 2016 shows, captured as our contributors worked furiously behind-the-scenes on parallel projects.
Now that the dust has settled (or was it glitter?), we bring you this irreverent and non-comprehensive look back at a few key Resort ‘16/’17 collection showcases.

Misha Collection

This show grabbed all the headlines thanks to the inclusion of celebrity model Bella Hadid in the catwalk line-up.  Bella is high profile – perhaps thanks in part to big sister Gigi also being a prominent model, and perhaps partly due to romantic ties with contempo Hip Hop artist The Weeknd (sic).  Her mama Yolanda was also a prominent model in the 1980s, while Bella has made a couple of appearances on one of this generation’s more notorious reality TV shows (about a certain family), and several high calibre magazine covers including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and GQ.

So how about the threads? Misha Collection’s Michelle Aznavorian brought a black and nude palate, with sheer fabrics offset by corsets, lace and tailored dresses, some topped with flowing pieces reminiscent of pared down (let’s avoid the word ‘deconstructed’)  elegant trench coats following a feminine silhouette.
Hair wise, Dale Delaporte and the Prema team brought a slicked back ponytail look, with velvet fabric wrapped around the length of the ponytail.  Bella seemed to enjoy the ‘do so much, she kept the pony in while socialising in Sydney later that evening.
Get this hair look


Yeojin Bae

Yeojin’s ‘Contemplation Collection’ marked the 10th anniversary of this label.  A palate of red, emerald (Lacoste green, perhaps?), black and rouge nudes set the tone for structured, geometric shoulders.  This was complemented by ribbon-cut tassels on flowing skirts and silk fabrics, alongside form fitting shapes and the angular colour blocking with which Yeojin is synonymous.


Steven Khalil

Each successive look in this runway stepped up the opulence and splendour in subtle degrees until the glamour reached its crescendo with the appearance of a $100,000 wedding dress – reportedly 6 months in the making.  The colour palate was shades of Grace Kelly and Audrey H.  Khalil presented a collection that included both chic, modern tailored pieces and classic flowing gowns.  Metallic details, A-lines and pants, and structured necklines graduated into flowing gowns, delicate lace and applied floral touches.

Dale and the Prema team complemented Khalil’s high, detailed necklines by keeping hair ‘stripped away from the face’, tucking strands behind the head, or sweeping tresses back into braids, whilst height and a lush texture at the hairline added gloss and shine.
Get this hair look.


We Are Handsome

Electric prints, striking neon colour and bold fabrics; We Are Handsome’s ‘Hustle Theory’ and ‘Heat Seven’ collections were the highlight of an MBFWA Thursday set aside for active and swimwear.  Each model walked tall in patent gold high-tops, athletic hoods, crop tops and leggings eventually peeled away to reveal acid-tropical swim suits, risqué mesh bodysuits and Blade Runner-esque transparent vinyl pieces.

Garreth Lenagh for Prema styled the hair in keeping with the active theme.  The wet, anti-glamour look was evocative of hitting the streets straight from the beach or gym locker room. ‘Sectioning in the front of the hair embodies the simple act of ‘a girl running fingers through her hair’ while ‘the gold pins were imperfectly placed’ to give the look of a girl who ‘doesn’t use a mirror when getting ready.’
Get this hair look.


Oscar De La Renta

One of the first international fashion houses to have shown at MBFWA, De La Renta’s collection closed the week in spectacular form enlisting celeb Australian model Shanina Shaik, and setting the show to a philharmonic sounding cover of Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach.  A diversity of ball gowns, cocktail dresses, skirts and day-to-evening wear were sashayed forth in a range of colours from bold oranges and reds through to deep navy and light powdery blues.  Feminine contrast was the key as vibrant floral prints and embroidered pieces also appeared along with blazers and pants suits in a myriad of rich fabrics.
John Pulitano of Headcase directed hair styling for Redken.  ‘The look was inspired by the collection which was very French, rich and dreamy.  We wanted a modern take on a classic chignon…  We did that by creating more of a raw texture into the hair and having quite a few fly-always, giving the overall look a classic modern yet ethereal feel.’

In all, over 55 designers showed at MBFWA 2016 and we’ve only shown you 9.09090909091% here.
Despite some initial misgivings, the new May timeslot and the shift to a Resort Collection focus appears to have been a complete success.  For a look behind-the-scenes at some of the hard work which took place backstage, check out MBFWA 2016: Fashion Week from the Other Side.

Reef Gaha is a Sydney based photographer.


MBFWA 2016: Fashion Week from the Other Side

WORDS AND PHOTOS: Reef Gaha | Behind the Scenes at MBFWA 2016 |

As a working photographer, Australian Fashion Week has long been one of the annual events I look forward to shooting most each year. From my early years of furiously attempting to shoot every single runway and backstage, to assignments filing coverage for waiting publications (or in recent years, brands) Fashion Week is more than the sum of its parts…

More than just the hallowed designers and their collections which form the primary focus; more than the models whose youth, charisma and superhuman ability are writ large at every turn; more than the state-of-the-art hair and makeup, the flair of which transforms disparate bands of girls and boys into a unified brethren of follicle and face.

Behind the scenes, fashion week is also a convention and annual ‘reunion’ of professionals from the above industries. Each year, I look forward to seeing and working with extremely talented people it would otherwise be impossible to find under one roof. Running away to join the MBFWA circus once a year means catching up with one or two photographers whose imagery baffles my mind, and being able to observe or even help them work (maybe coming away just slightly less baffled).

As someone whose primary interest in photography has always been the portrait (or more specifically, images of people in relation to the signifiers of our time: art, fashion and music), Fashion Weeks are a joy. Sure, there are those who find matters seemingly so driven by appearance as fairly ho-hum, but that’s missing the point. The hard work, camaraderie and spirit of so many creative and dedicated people are chronicled by this annual event.

To that end, here’s a little photo essay capturing some of that spirit, from a behind-the-scenes perspective. My brief for the past several installments of MBFWA has been hair and makeup driven and no doubt, they’ll receive a fair portion of focus in this album.

Smiling faces and goofy hand gestures may receive much of the rest


The many faces of Fashion Week debutante Olivia-James, a girl so cool, they gave her two first names.


Backstage you soon learn, it’s a brave man who comes between a girl and her snacks…


… and that at any time, Bondi Rescue men may appear to spirit girls away on surboards. Such is the order of things.


Creative disciplines work in synthesis to drive a helix of skill and talent.


At times, the hair and makeup artistry can only be described as flawless.


One distinct privilege of working behind the scenes at Fashion Week is seeing the amazing Redken hair team in action lead by directors Richard Kavanagh, John Pulitano and Philip Barwick.
This year, conspicuous in its absence, Richard’s trademark ‘muscle man mustache’ and quiff. In their place, a look more akin to Richards pugilistic roots.


Regular readers of Caramel Animals will be no stranger to the stylings of Dale Delaporte and the Prema hair team (see for more).


Fashion Week isn’t always about glamour and clamour.

There are also several photographers in attendance at Fashion Week who never cease to astound me with their incredible natural gift. Before closing I’d like to make special mention of Mark Nolan from Getty Images. ( for a small selection)

Mark, a family man and former rugby player, began shooting local football games after hanging up his boots in the 35mm days, before coming to the notice of a sports editor. He’d probably hate me saying this, but there’s something masterful in each of his shots, despite fashion never having been his main focus.

That’s where I’ll leave it for now. I’ll follow up with some show specific image galleries later this week.

Reef Gaha is a Sydney based photographer.


Life, Death and Dale Delaporte

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | Backstage & Runway: Manning Cartell MBFWA 2015 |


Some creatives work best in their own space. It’s familiar. The environment can be readily controlled. You can orchestrate lighting with the touch of a button and adjust the volume remotely. You can set the pace. If you’re working with a client, you can tailor the entire experience toward them. If you like chaos, you can let a little in. If you’re more interested in order, you can dial the chaos out.

Some creatives leave this order in favour of an altogether more edgy environment.

That’s not to say busy salons or studios aren’t edgy. Put everything on the line to produce and direct the hair styling for a fashion week show however, and you’re buying into something altogether more keyed up.

What if the cadence of a bustling high street salon was a Xerox of the backstage environment at a Fashion Week show? Dale Delaporte laughs off the comparison. ‘I’d never go back to that salon.’


Backstage, the atmosphere contains little of the glamour and opulence runway shows often convey. Industry and intensity fill cramped, hotly lit spaces.  Creative disciplines work in synthesis to drive a helix of skill and talent; a cocktail of caffeine and epinephrine that occasionally boils over.

Dale describes the scene: ‘Forty girls take up a small space shared with wardrobe styling. Ten hair styling sections work on a look that takes at least one hour per girl to create. This cuts things very fine.’ The average backstage is around 3 hours.

‘Factor in models that’ll need glue in hair wefts, a campaign photo shoot, press and beauty photographers, interviews and  ten models arriving within the last hour of our preparation time… The chaos sets in. Conversely, a salon is all about making one client as happy as you can and giving them the absolute best aesthetic experience possible. As it should be.’


What exactly drew Dale into working with hair at this level?

Picture the 1990s. It’s Dale’s Year 10 formal.  His coif is gelled into sharp N’Sync style spikes with blue tips. A year or so later at 16, he steps in as a training model for a friend’s sister. She gives him a silver-white scalp bleach. Year 12 and the HSC rolls around. Dale’s formal outfit is replete with full diamante cuffs (again in silver and light blue) to match his date’s gown. All these looks would have bordered on outrageous for a kid living in Campbelltown (south western Sydney) during that time.  ‘It wasn’t until I moved into Newtown in Sydney after beginning my apprenticeship that the real fun started.’

‘When I finished school, all I was looking for was a full time job in the creative industry. I didn’t realise I wanted to be a hair dresser until I was already doing it. I saw an ad for a creative job in the city with possible overseas opportunities and literally thought “yeah, I could do that.”‘

I ask Dale if he thinks hairdressing was his calling, as such.

‘I can’t say it was the one thing I was destined to do, but I also can’t imagine doing anything else. Put me behind a desk with nothing creative to do for 40 hrs a week and… ’

Dale trails off, muttering something about euthanasia.


However creative, hairdressing is physically demanding work performed daily over the course of long hours. I ask Dale if he feels passionate about it all the time, or whether the urge wavers. The answer reveals a lot about his creative drive.

‘I’ve discovered that there are subtle levels of creative passion. It’s impossible to maintain the same level at all times. Being Creative Director [at Prema] has taught me more about this than anything else. Before Prema, there was a stage when working in a salon for a full week had me close to giving up hairdressing all together. I actually applied for a fashion design course, but something happened.’ Dale describes a more layered approach. ‘My work… my brain evolved. Now different things support and inspire my passion at different levels.’


‘I don’t really go on holiday, so any money I save goes toward enhancing my work – like travelling the fashion week circuit from home in New York through to Paris … it’s the kind of job where, if you find yourself devoid of passion, you get out ASAP.’

As the conversation progresses, it becomes apparent that Dale’s most potent inspiration comes from seeing top creative hands at work. Having started his career assisting Renya Xydis, he moved on to working with Daren Borthwick, Michele McQuillan, Max Pinnell and Duffy. On one of his more recent non-holidays, Dale session styled on Guido Palau’s team for Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, Valentino, Miu Miu and Versace.

As a resume, it’s a pretty neat roll-call.

‘I love looking at magazines and editorials, but you can only take so much away from a still image. Watching hands manipulate hair and finishing things that would just boggle your mind in a picture. That really picks up my adrenaline.’


My strongest images of Dale at work were taken backstage at Manning Cartell’s 2015 MBFWA show. I ask him what it was like planning hair styling for the runway production with Gabrielle, Cheryl and Vanessa, the sisters behind one of Australia’s most iconic labels. His face lights up.

‘They are SUCH a delight to work with. Three of the loveliest ladies in Australian fashion.’

Between salon clients in Manhattan, Dale met the trio over a Skype call with the Manning Cartell offices in Sydney where Tony Assness [Production Manager], Peter Simon Phillips [Stylist] and Nicole Thompson [Makeup Director] were also in attendance. ‘We spoke in depth about the Manning Cartell girl, establishing the kind of look we were aiming for.’

Ideas developed online as the team sent ideas back and forth.

‘When I finally arrived in Sydney, the trial process began. I met with the team just a few hours after hopping off the plane. The next week, Nicole and I were creating looks on models.’

‘The looks all had one basic theme that we played with and manipulated until we got right. One of the most important parts of the beauty look was that the girls look like a tribe. They all needed to look VERY similar, which meant half the girls needed extensions, and one of them, an entire lace front wig.’


Viewing the finished looks along the runway, the effect is seamless.  The intricate prep work now appears as a whole, unified front. The girls march toward the media riser like a follicular sisterhood; a third millennium girl gang.

‘They were an army. They had to be individuals, but cloned from the same origin.’

I ask Dale to describe how these concepts become spoken into hairstyles?

‘The fringe on the right paired with a scraped left and back conveys attitude. The profile shows the laissez faire side of the Manning Cartell woman, letting the attitude come to them.’

The profile also calls to mind images of Brigitte Bardot’s loosely slung pony tail.

‘The mini pony at the bottom really contained the silhouette from every angle and held the look together. The idea of covering one eye was brought in very early. Initially the fringe was heavier and sleeker, but it evolved into a kind of glamorous, day-old version of the original.’


Back in the salon, the strains of an eclectic electro-pop ballad play over the pipes. The AC blows cool. The room might not be whisper silent, but I can hear every snip. Words are exchanged knowingly and concepts become cuts. Customers sip hot coffee and read glossy magazines, occasionally boggling at the extreme opulence of pictures. Dale adjusts the volume via remote and picks up the scissors.  He’s not dreaming of deserted beaches or crystalline ski slopes.

See the entire Manning Cartell MBFWA ’15 runway gallery below.  

Something stirring within that you’d prefer to have tirelessly and expressively sculpted into the tresses of your own hair?

Based in New York, Dale Delaporte is Creative Director for Prema.
See for Sydney and New York locations.

Reef Gaha is a Sydney based photographer.