Vixen is a textile design based fashion label, co-founded in 1992 by Georgia Chapman and Meredith Rowe (Rowe left Vixen in 2000 to pursue other areas of design). It is a wholesale business producing high fashion clothing, home wares and accessories which are sold through boutiques nationally and internationally.
The label is unique in Australia, successfully combining a crafts based practice and aesthetic with a high fashion product. The textiles and clothing appear not only on the catwalk but also in craft and design exhibitions at galleries and museums. In 1999 the label won the Seppelt Contemporary Art Award based at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and in 2001 Vixen appeared on the catwalk at Mercedes Australian Fashion Week in Sydney.
Georgia Chapman specialises in the design and hand crafting of a seasonally changing range of textiles. In the early days of the label the textiles were used in scarves, sarongs, wraps, curtains and throws. When Maureen Sohn joined the company in 1999, her expertise in garment construction and design allowed Vixen to evolve into a more sophisticated high fashion label. Working together Chapman and Sohn have created a label that is not trend driven but rather based on a shared passion for innovative textile designs worked into garments that acknowledge the sensuality of the cloth and the history of the designs as well as being kind to the bodies the clothing adorns.
The textile designs evolve over time as Chapman experiments with layering texture, colour and pattern using various techniques including dying, over dying, hand printing, etching and embellishing. Inspiration comes from many sources but in particular Chapman explores a wide variety of textile traditions. "We look back to other times, seek out new textile traditions to authenticate our work. By interpreting early arts and crafts, refusing to be typical and seeking out new ways to recreate the old, an archaic form of inspiration results in the creation of something strangely modern. We collect and create anew. Through our process of design we can create and inspire a narrative, an imaginative reverie generated by both the form of the garment and what is printed upon them. The seductive nature of our garments work on many levels:through the desire to caress and hold the sensuous fabrics, to enjoy the intellectual play of the origin of the design rendered to contemporary form, to partake of revelation and concealment of flesh and cloth, and to delight in the visual play of pattern over surface" Georgia Chapman interview with Glynis Jones, Powerhouse Museum 2002.
This particular outfit was designed specifically for the Powerhouse Museum exhibition 'Sourcing the Muse'. The origins of this exhibition lay with the Museum's rich textile and dress collection and archive and the emergence over the last decade of a new generation of Australian fashion designers whose original and distinct signatures are marked by a knowledge of and passion for fashion and textile history. Eight Australian designers including Vixen were invited to look through the Museum's textile and dress collection and select an item or collection of items to use as a source of inspiration for a new work they created for the exhibition. The exhibition showcased the Museum's extraordinary collection through the hearts, minds and vision of some of Australia's foremost fashion designers. In the process it gave the Museum's audience the chance to access the often elusive world of a designer's creative process, where they seek inspiration and the process that takes then from their source of inspiration through the design, manufacture and creation of a new work.
For this outfit, Bohemian Paris of the 1920's and 1930s inspired their concept. "A time in last century's mad rush, where style, morals, customs and art itself had all been subjected to an unprecedented acceleration. There was a sudden fascination with the exotic and the primitive. A strange hedonistic mix occurred. Based around this theme we delved into the archives to select textiles that when juxtaposed and melded together emulated this. The mix and contrast of elements is an inherent part of our design style". Georgia Chapman 2002. Georgia and Maureen sourced the Museum's collection of textiles for inspiration and based their outfit on a Kuba ceremonial skirt A10692, 'Asyut' shawl 85/2823, a macrame mantel drape A6796 and a Samoan 'siapo' 89/766. Drawing on the fabric, print, motif and colour featured in these textiles Georgia produced a range of handcrafted printed fabrics which Maureen Sohn used in her design for this outfit. Their 'Diamond' scarf draws on the beaten silver 'Asyut' shawl which Georgia has translated into a hand printed silver foil design on tulle.The macrame mantel drape inspired the 'macrame' print featured on the outfit's 'Obi' top. The pieced skirt features a geometric diamond based print inspired by the colour and pattern of the African and Samoan textiles. The print techniques used on the skirt include dyes on power mesh and discharge and devore print on silk viscose velvet.