Flower power: Floral fashion at Melbourne Flower and Garden Show

RMIT’s annual Floral Fashion exhibit blurred the line between art and fashion to highlight environmental issues at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (17–31 March).

First prize winner Taylah Caddy with her design.

Bachelor of Fashion (Design) (Honours) students filled the Great Hall of Flowers at Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building with garments predominantly from plant matter.

The sixteen students involved in the project based their creative designs around the theme ‘Future Matter(s): Ecology, Climate and Community’, with three winners taking home a share in $3000 prize money.

It was a fast-paced process: students had only five weeks to design, plan, and install their works.

The Floral Fashions exhibit, run by the School of Fashion and Textiles, has been a treasured staple at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show for over 18 years.

Fight for the Bight: Meg Bradbury won second place for her design which referenced problems facing the Great Australian Bight.

Project lead and Fashion and Textiles Lecturer Dr Georgia McCorkill said because the partnership had such a long history, students came to the first class with a high level of awareness and excitement.

“I was so impressed with how enthusiastically the students responded to the short time frame of this project. There was also a fantastic sense of teamwork. Everyone stayed until the last person was finished and jumped in to make sure everyone’s work was completed.”

“The project helps students realise they can apply their fashion design skills to unfamiliar materials. They are able to see how transferrable their knowledge is across diverse creative contexts.”

Speaking at the show, Fashion Lecturer Dr Tarryn Handcock said the collaboration was a valuable opportunity for students to gain outward-facing industry experience.

“Design should never be in a bubble. Floral Fashions gives students perspective on alternative modes of fashion and exhibition,” Handcock said.

Zoe May Sutherland's design was commended for her innovative cane skeleton and awarded third place.

First-prize winner Taylah Caddy’s thoughtful approach to the theme was the idea ‘not knowing future matters,’ which examined societal attitudes and ignorance about the impacts of climate change.

She said it was an amazing feeling to have been honoured with the prize.

“RMIT has given me a lot of opportunities and opened me up to a lot of new ideas that I’ve never had before. It’s allowed me to think differently and try so many different things. I never thought I’d be working with flowers instead of fabrics.

“Working with partners like the Flower and Garden Show is a good way to get experience exhibiting and thinking about the logistics, like what’s going to last and what’s going to look good,” Caddy said.

The judges commented that Caddy’s installation was an impeccably thought-out design with a great choice of materials that will last the length of the show.

Highlights of her complex design, which was installed over two 12-hour days, included a gas mask made from flowers, an umbrella made from leaves and a succulent jacket.

The Floral Fashion exhibit was a highlight in the Great Hall of Flowers.

Second place was awarded to Meg Bradbury who collected and manipulated seaweed to reference the darker problems the Great Australian Bight is facing.

In third place was Zoe May Sutherland, whose cane exoskeleton was commended as an innovative way of dealing with the problems posed by designing with plant matter.

The competition was judged by the curator for the National Trust of Australia, Elizabeth Anya-Petrivna, sustainable fashion writer and blogger Leeyong Soo and Lecturer in Industrial Design Juliette Anich.

At the show’s conclusion, students will disassemble their work and utilise the compost facility within the RMIT Brunswick campus dye garden to return suitable plant matter to nature.

RMIT is renowned for its fashion design program and is the highest ranked university in Australia for Art and Design. (2019 QS Rankings)

Students based their designs around the ‘Future Matter(s): Ecology, Climate and Community’ theme.

Story: Jasmijn van Houten

27 March 2019


27 March 2019


  • fashion
  • Student experience
  • Arts and culture
  • Design
  • Future World of Work

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