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Fashion Empire’s Sarah Kelly heads to New York Fashion Week

Wendy Johnson

Fashion consultant and philanthropist Sarah Kelly is excited. Very excited.

It’s not just because she’s packing her bags to fly to the Big Apple for New York Fashion Week, where she will catch up with famous photographer Bill Cunningham, (who may even be wearing his oh-so-famous electric blue jacket), or that she will be immersed in some of the world’s most dynamic fashion. It’s because she’ll be taking with her select garments created by two Canberra designers.

This is Sarah’s second year attending NYFW and she’s wearing her high heels to bed in readiness. The designers Sarah has chosen to wear are Corr Blimey and The Label and both designers are over the moon that their fashion will be seen on the streets of the city that never sleeps.

Sarah Kelly

Sarah Kelly

“We have such amazing and inspiring fashion design talent in Canberra,” says Sarah. “We need to stop saying “we’re getting there”. Some of our designers have well and truly “arrived” and if I can be a vehicle for their talent I will. I’m a big fan.”

Louisa de Smet, the design mind behind Corr Blimey – one of Canberra’s longest standing and best-known independent labels – says Sarah will wear pieces launched as part of the ‘Propaganda Z’ collection at Fashfest 2015, with some pieces refined after the show.

Corr Blimey is famous for its sculptural approach to streetwear and for designing and contructing innovative but highly wearable garments that stand out in a market saturated by mass production.

“I adore the aesthetic,” says Sarah. “When I first say Corr Blimey on the Fashfest catwalk in 2013 I knew I wanted several pieces in my wardrobe.”

Sarah will take three Corr Blimey pieces to New York, establishing her own relationship and creating her own look with each garment.

Corr Blimey’s Lantern Skirt and Torro Jacket are made of 100 per cent wool designer felt and inspired by the construction, look and feel of iconic Walter Knoll furniture. “The felt isn’t made for apparel or typically used in the fashion world,” says Louisa, “but the journey of fashion is about exploring and experimenting. There are no rules that cannot be broken.”

Corr Blimey Shirt Dress

Corr Blimey Torro Jacket

The 90 Degrees Shirt Dress in ivory is also heading to New York. Made of cotton sateen. the dress has a bit of spandex and so moves well on the body. It’s a highly versatile piece that can be worn alone or over leggings. The dress is the second incarnation of the design and this time features a longer hemline, which makes the shirt a wardrobe staple, and is available in navy and ivory; the felt pieces in solid grey tones or a mix of light and dark.

Each Corr Blimey piece is made here in Canberra with each felt garment fitted to each customer. ‘The felt moulds around the body and is shaped by the customer as they wear it, which allows each piece to truly be unique,’ says Louisa.

Corr Blimey is now stocking select items from their Propaganda collections, as well as Alpha scarves and leather belts, at Agency, Craft ACT’s new, high-end design store, at the Ori Building in Braddon. The Alpha scarves are produced in limited runs of varying colours, each one individually printed so no two are alike.

Corr Blimey Torro Jacket

Corr Blimey 90 degrees Shirt Dress


Designer Emma O’Rourke is ecstatic that pieces from ‘The Label’ are also going to be tucked into Sarah’s suitcase, like the ‘Volume Dress’. Emma is custom making this dress for Sarah with a soft ponte fabric (mix of polyester, rayon and spandex). ‘It has two circles on the front to create feminine volume,’ says the fashion designer. ‘They also double as pockets.’

The Label Volume Dress

The Label Volume Dress

The ‘Panel Jacket/Dress’ is also travelling to New York. As its name suggests, the garment can be worn as either a jacket or a dress. ‘It’s also made from ponte and the panels move with the body and create a striking silhouette,’ says Emma. ‘It’s made up of more than 28 different pattern pieces.’

Both items by The Label are being made in a ‘crisp ivory’.

The Label Panel Dress

The Label Panel Dress

Sarah first got in touch with Bill Cunningham through Instagram and met him in person last year. The legendary New York Times fashion photographer spots and distils the latest trends from famous runways to the colourful streets of one of the world’s most famous cities. Bill has been a habitual presence on the streets of New York for more than 60 years.

“It was a joy meeting him,” says Sarah. “We established a lovely friendship that continues to this day and I was delighted that he gave me access to the archives at the New York Times last year so I could study his work.”

A shy man, Bill has been known to say that he loves to see wonderfully dressed women. “… I still do,” says the somewhat shy photographer. “That’s all there is to it.”



Runway image
Designer: Corr Blimey—lantern skirt (from a distance)
Jewellery—Silver Atom
Model: Rachelle Dawson, HAUS Models
Photography: Studio Vita
Rest of credits as above.

Panel Dress image
Designer: The Label—Panel Jacket/Dress
Model: Ellen Parsons
Photography: John Hatfield
Hair and MUA: Paula Mcdowell

Volume Dress image
Designer: The Label—Volume Dress
Photography: LORIANA | fotografia
Model: Nicole Luker
Hair: Smitten Hair
MUA: Canberra Makeup Academy

Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author

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