The exhibition has opened and is fantastic! Of course the sub-theme that is closest to my heart is the Woollen Mermaids. I first started scoping this concept back in 2006, and in part I was driven by the desire to articulate how Annette Kellerman and the swimsuit have contributed to Australian national identity – and in turn how Australia has influenced the design direction of the swimsuit to create a distinctly Australian niche in global fashion. Kellerman is remembered for popularising the swimsuit in the early 1900s, however her contribution stretches beyond this, as she achieved success across a number of related fields – in fashion, film, sport and as a role-model for women, encouraging self-motivation and self-development. By drawing on her as muse for a contemporary swimsuit collection by Australia’s leading swimwear designers and the talented second-year students at QUT, I was threading the past into the present to both celebrate and memorialise Kellerman’s achievements and give it new meaning and currency.
Kellerman drew on mermaidenry and the magic of fairy tales to create a charismatic persona clothed in the swimsuit, although in reality these were woolly and uncomfortable. Woollen Mermaids is a modern fairy tale at a time when swimsuits have a fashion edge – glamorous, exotic, and designed in body-hugging fine wool/lycra.
Happy endings – I love them – and Woollen Mermaids is just that!