Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Fashion Icons on Film

Beyond Biba
Beyond Biba: A Portrait of Barbara Hulanicki
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) once again takes part in Melbourne Spring Fashion Week (MSFW) with Fashion Icons on Film - a season of four Australian premiere documentaries celebrating fashion through four pioneering designers whose impact is undeniable.

"Designers Roy Halston, Barbara Hulanicki, Ralph Rucci and Yves Saint Laurent are the icons," said ACMI Film Programmer James Nolen. "In this season, each features in a new documentary looking at their beginnings, their artistry, their brands, their spectacular rise (and, in some cases, equally spectacular fall), the events and people that shaped them, right through to their legacy today," he said.

Roy Halston, America's first celebrity designer, was the epitome of extravagant seventies chic. Having enjoyed its world premiere at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston (2009) is a look into the life of the designer and his eponymous fashion house via director Whitney Sudler-Smith's assemblage of archival footage and interviews. Sudler-Smith interviews Halston's close friend Liza Minnelli, model Anjelica Huston and fellow designer Diane Von Furstenberg among others.

Beginning his career as a milliner, Halston created the iconic pillbox hat that Jackie Onassis wore at her husband John F. Kennedy's Presidential Inauguration in 1961: a credit which led to him soon becoming a household name in America. His slinky dresses were favourites amongst the New York party set of the seventies of which he was a part, and particularly with clients such as Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor and Bianca Jagger. As the designer himself once said, "You're only as good as the people you dress".

Named after the Japanese-engineered synthetic suede he helped popularise, the documentary traces Halston's career to his zenith of fame, through to the demise of his label, career and his tragic end. The label is currently experiencing a revival via the Halston Heritage line with Sarah-Jessica Parker in her role as chief creative officer.

One lady is credited with revolutionising British fashion in the seventies: Barbara Hulanicki, the woman behind the iconic London retail hotspot, BIBA. Beyond Biba: A Portrait of Barbara Hulanicki (2009) is a documentary capturing the fascinating story of the woman who bought a new level of glamour to high street fashion. BIBA, frequented by artists, film stars and musicians (including Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Marianne Faithful) evolved from store to store, eventually climaxing with a 5-storey Art Deco complex in West London.

Interviews with Hulanicki reveal the life of the Polish migrant, who fled from Palestine after the assassination of her diplomat father; her beginnings as a fashion illustrator; the initial failed attempts to start-up her business; the opening of the first store in 1964, a venture then husband Stephen Fitz-Simon; right through to her grim reflections on the closure of BIBA at the height of its fame in 1975. Today, Hulanicki has found another outlet for her brightly coloured design aesthetic as an interior designer and building decorator living in Miami with a string of hotel design credits to her name.

Director Louis Price makes his debut with subject matter close to his heart: his mother worked for BIBA for over seven years and, as a result, he grew up with an understanding of BIBA's influence on the fashion scene in Great Britain in the 1960s. Beyond Biba, which premiered in London last year before going on to feature film festivals in France and Brazil, will premiere in Australia in time for MSFW.

Ralph Rucci, the first American designer in decades invited to show at Paris haute couture, is best known for his innovative use of fabrics and bucking trends. Narrated by Rucci client Martha Stewart, Ralph Rucci: a Designer and His House (2008) sees filmmaker David Boatman immerse himself in Rucci's gloriously luxurious world on the eve of the launch of his 2008 autumn couture collection. New York Times' fashion critic Cathy Horyn endorsed Rucci to her loyal readers when she said; "Mr Rucci belongs to the heroic ranks of Balenciaga, Madame Grès and Halston."

Harking back to ACMI's Yves Saint Laurent on Film tribute season (MSFW 2008) comes the Australian premiere of Célébration (2007); the last documentary to portray the great couturier at work before his death in 2008. Banned in France, director Olivier Meyrou goes behind the glamorous scenes of Yves Saint Laurent's world, to reveal a fragile, mysterious and tortured artist.

The latest looks on the runways of New York, London and Paris will also be show in the ACMI Lounge where the latest episodes of Dressed Up For (Habillée pour) will screen throughout the week. 
ACMI, with the generous support of the City of Melbourne, presents Fashion Icons on Film as part of the cultural program of MSFW 2010. Each Australian premiere film will screen at ACMI three times between the season dates of Saturday 28 August to Saturday 4 September, 2010.

Further information

Claire Butler
Communications Coordinator
[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2415 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 654
[email] claire.butler@acmi.net.au  
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