Koa Collective, brainchild of Em Mathews and Carly Woods, took over the Red Rattler in Marrickville for an afternoon, transforming the space into a combined performance-marketplace showcasing a curated collection of clothing brands. The idea for the afternoon was borne of the ongoing difficulties faced by women who prefer more gender neutral dress. Women’s clothing is too feminine, men’s clothing never fits quite right, and when you do find something, the options are limited.
The afternoon was a celebration of tomboy and androgynous womens’ fashion. Not only did S/HE successfully link up brands and buyers, it also helped raise awareness about ethical and sustainable fashion. After all– the majority of the fashion supply chain is made up of women. No matter how you parse it, fashion is a feminist issue. The products available on the day included accessories like socks, underwear, and hats, as well as good quality basic essentials. The feature brand was Kirrin Finch (New York), who creates menswear inspired clothing, in a range of colourful, contemporary designs– currently not available anywhere in Australia.
The main event of the afternoon was the fashion show, with a variety of volunteers (including myself) wearing the brands. The energy backstage was excited and chatty, until we found out that we had to spend 45 seconds each on stage. I felt the realisation of how long that actually is creeping over me. I saw the same realisation dawning on the faces of the other models. But before we had a chance to curse our enthusiastic volunteering, the music started up and next I knew, I was on stage. The atmosphere was positive and welcoming, and the models danced, pranced, and strutted across the space, demonstrating how the clothing sat and moved on female bodies.
Carly and Em also sourced a variety of performers to provide entertainment for the afternoon. A number of acoustic sets, interspersed with contemporary dance, drag, and burlesque performers graced the iconic stage. To round out the event that last little bit, the upstairs area was transformed into a lunch oasis. The winter sunlight filtered through pot plants and comfortably warmed the room. Vintage sofas and armchairs allowed people to lounge around and enjoy one of the meal offerings from Green Wise Monkeys (try their vegan sweet potato lasagna– it’s impressively creamy), or a sweet snack from The Vegan Teahouse.
Moving forward, Carly and Em are aiming to establish Koa Collective as an online fashion hub. If you’re sad you missed out on the first S/HE Afternoon, there will definitely be more in the future. Carly and Em are committed to making it easy to find the clothes we want and are looking to recruit more labels. The physical space provided by the event served as a platform for the dialogue between consumer and provider to take place, as well as an opportunity to support queer artists, and have a general good time. The music, food, and fashion totalled more than their sum. It was a community brought together, made tangible.
– Liv S.
Liv S. is a creature of warm weather and negronis. Her interests include androgynous fashion, trying new things, and triple utterances. Follow her frolics on @callmememphisjones.