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.