Works by designer Toni Maticevski are wowing visitors to Bendigo Art Gallery in regional Victoria.
Gowns including one worn by Crown Princess Mary and the gold and silver lamé dress worn by Jessica Mauboy for Eurovision 2014 are among the creations featured in the exhibition, Maticevski: Dark Wonderland.
Maticevski, awarded RMIT's Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2013, describes the journey behind his eponymous label.
Growing up in Melbourne's west, you started sketching designs at the age of four. What inspired your early interest in design?
I was always infatuated with design and how people dressed. And dressing up is an important thing for me. I remember seeing sketches my cousin had done in high school of bridal dresses, watching Donahue interview Valentino on TV.
Another pivotal moment was going to the Balenciaga retrospective at the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria). It was utterly fascinating. I was a little bewitched by the concept that one could make a dress by hand, that there was a technique to fashion; and that a soul was important.
That has formed my work to this day. It's easy to get caught up in fashion for glamour and lifestyle but to me it really is an exploration and a challenge every time.
What is it about fashion design in particular that drew you in? What is it about clothing and fabric that fascinates you?
I love seeing women look and feel beautiful. I love that feeling that I have just made someone's life a little bit more exciting. A little more fulfilled and acknowledged.
There is something about being able to capture that when a woman puts a dress on that is utterly intoxicating.
Fabric and clothing people can be just as sensual as undressing. It's that idea that you put on your carer and protector. When you take that off you usually undress to those you love or desire.
What were the most important things you learned during your time at RMIT? What had the greatest influence on you during your time at RMIT?
The most important thing I learned was time management. My teacher at the time (Libby Austen-Dixon) said to me: "Your work is amazing, you just need to channel that into making it work to a time frame." I think of that every day.
I learned how to handle fabric from Neville Sutherland. How to construct fabric from Adrie Janssen. How to stick to my own style by Karen Webster. To be technical and flip it on its head from Janette Gavin. All these things stay with me.
The most important thing was to do things your own way. Some things just flow naturally, and RMIT let me do that.
What inspired you to establish your own label a little over a decade ago? At the time, did you feel that there were any risks associated with this?
I didn't think about it really. I stumbled into it and found that I liked working for myself. I have loved working for other brands too [Toni worked for Donna Karan and Cerutti after graduating], but sometimes I think that ego and hesitation kills that from growing.
So I step back and focus on my own ideas. I can be the biggest critic, I can push ideas that may not seem relevant or right and I am responsible. I went with it and I am still going with it.
It's been said that you have a solitary approach to design - do you agree, and if so, why do you choose to work this way?
Sometimes. I do like that idea of letting yourself be lazy and crazy without others' eyes judging at the initial stage.
But my team is great. I run things past them as they all have a different perspective, but it's usually after I have started the collection. I don't want to have other thoughts and ideas mess with gut instinct.
So much is the way it is because of how music sounds, how light hits a wall, how a reflection can change things. It's necessary to have that time with yourself.
What have you learned about business as the Maticevski label has grown in the past decade?
Service is everything! Everyone is important and everyone deserves to feel beautiful!
How do you think the fashion industry has changed since you established your label?
It feels like it's a little more relevant on the world stage. But I feel like we are challenging ourselves a lot more. It definitely feels exciting to be in Australia.
Maticevski: Dark Wonderland runs until 20 November.