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chapel of chic

Filmmaker notes - Lesley Sharon Rosenthal (Director)

In Chapel of Chic you will be taken on a fabulous journey. You will visit the knitting mills, workrooms, studios and boutiques where you will meet the fascinating people who throughout the years, all put the 'chic' in the fabric of Chapel.

Decade by decade, as each generation impacts on the last, we find that Chapel Street was the pivot for the rise of labels like Prue Acton, Saba, Just Jeans, Jag, Lisa Barron, Jenny Bannister, Christopher Chronis, Gorman and Peter Alexander.

But this is not just a film about headline acts. It also emphasizes the important role retailers and boutiques played in mentoring fledgling designers. They dared to be different. Chapel Street was their proving ground, a kind of Australian fashion laboratory.

Post WWII, Chapel Street provided a welcome sanctuary for many European migrants, who started businesses there. In and around the Street, knitting mills employed hundreds of migrants. Mary Goldfarb, whose parents owned Liga Knitting Mills, says "Chapel Street provided a wonderful escape after the trauma they suffered in WWII." 

It wasn't until the late 1960s, when the department stores closed, that the first trendy boutiques opened their doors at the rundown South Yarra end. Menswear designer Mike Treloar remembers the arrival of young way-out 'clobber' to 1960s Chapel Street as, "The old versus the new or maybe the new versus the old. The times they were a changing I'll tell you that!"

With starry eyes and an urgent need to express her fashion sensibilities, designer Adele Palmer, who in 1969 had just returned from Swinging London, started her boutique Artemus, later to become the famous Jag label. Along with menswear boutique Plummage, she brought to the Street the excitement of London's Carnaby Street. Everything style-wise was 'the latest', groovy, happening. Not long after, Chapel Street South Yarra was tagged the Carnaby end.

In the 1970s Chapel Street really began to thrive as a hot fashion destination. A tribe of counter culture hippies colonized shops in the South Yarra end selling jeans and hip clothing. The atmosphere was raw, revolutionary and fertile ground for edgy boutiques such as Indigo, Baggys, Blues Point, Sillitto and Scuttle Clothing. "It was like cowboys and Indians in Chapel Street in 1975," says designer Jenny Bannister when describing the individualistic offbeat personalities who gravitated to the area at that time.

The 1980s played host to new wave designers Lisa Barron, Christopher Chronis, Jenny Bannister, Mariana Hardwick, Teresa and Bettina Liano. Retailers Wayne Watkins, Blonde Venus and Louis Epstein added their touches of originality in the decade when 'greed was good' and, says Lisa Barron, "Shoulder pads were the size of dinner plates."

Today, Chapel Street is where people go to see and be seen in the latest gear. The Windsor end now carries on the bohemian tradition. Chapel of Chic celebrates this rich and vibrant history that, in one way or another, has touched us all. Chapel Street proudly wears her fashion heritage like a much loved glad rag.

2 June 2008
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