The crocheted one-shoulder dress from Australian design label, Romance Was Born is inspired by the vintage crocheted rugs popular during the 1960s and 1970s craft revival. Shown at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week, Spring/Summer, 2009/2010 as part of the Doilies and Lace collection it is typical of Romance Was Born's whimsical take on traditional craft techniques. Designers Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett focused on a range of textile techniques including crocheting, knitting, embroidery and beading in their 2009 collection. With a focus on individual hand worked pieces, this outfit crocheted by Sales' mother contrasts with mainstream, mass-produced fashion.
This dress is significant for its association with famous Australian actress, Cate Blanchett and the subsequent media attention when she wore it. In September 2009 Cate Blanchett wore this dress in Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia. Reactions were mixed and some press described the dress as 'an old-school granny rug' and dubbed her 'Cate Blanket'. Luke Sales responded by saying, 'there's a sense of humour to everything we do, so no one can really offend us". Cate Blanchett also said she felt the intended "Cate Blanket" insult was a compliment.
Controversy arose around the dress when it appeared the design had influenced the work of a well known British Fashion designer. At London Fashion Week, 2010 designer Paul Smith unveiled a crocheted dress, very similar to Romance Was Born's dress created a year earlier. The duo were shocked to see the almost indistinguishable dress on the catwalk after their design had made International headlines when worn by Cate Blanchett. Anna Plunkett said, 'The Paul Smith one is a crochet dress-it's one-shouldered and it's the same sort of colour way as ours'. Designer Paul Smith denied being aware of Romance Was Born's designs.
Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales met and became firm friends while studying at The Fashion Design Studio, Sydney Institute of Technology. After graduation they were selected to attend The Fourth International Support Awards in Italy where they famously turned down an invitation to intern with John Galliano designer for fashion house Dior. The pair had other plans for their designs and launched their label, Romance Was Born shortly after. Inspired by iconic 1980's Australian designers Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee they are in Luke's own words, 'obsessed'! This influence can be seen through the use of bright eclectic prints, collaboration with Indigenous Australian artist, Esme Timbery and a recurring Australian theme. The duo have also collaborated with artist Del Kathryn Barton and high street fashion store Sportsgirl. They have dressed musicians Karen O of the Yeahs Yeah Yeahs, Cindy Lauper, Bat For Lashes, Debbie Harry, Lilly Allen, MIA, the Presets and Architecture in Helsinki.
This dress is significant as an example of unique and original contemporary Australian fashion design. It represents the recent resurgence of tradition draft techniques was one of the most talked about and acclaimed collections at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week, Spring/Summer 2009/2010. Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales are among the most creative and challenging Australian design teams to emerge in the last decade.
Assistant Curator, Rebecca Evans, 2010.