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- Courtney Sanders
Where on earth do you begin when reviewing a show that has all of the things? Romance was Born’s summer 2013-14 collection, ‘Mushroom Magic’ spanned at least three decades of subculture, transporting the audience to a futuristic and psychedelic landscape in which clothing was the portal to discovering new planes of existence. There are also probably also a lot of drugs in this world. So where do you start? With a tiny – but crucial – facet of course, in this case: the music. When I exited the show I mistakenly told a colleague that Paz Lenchantin - the multi-instrumental soloist who performed throughout Romance Was Born’s presentation - was from Smashing Pumpkins. I was confusing her with Melissa Auf De Maur but she had the same, nymph-like physical qualities and hails from the same era (the two have also played together), performing with groups like A Perfect Circle and Queens of the Stone Age. She looped swirling, transcendent vocal and guitar lines together, giving her the ability to add soaring, melodramatic violin to the sonic palette - there was also some epic tambourine-playing - and the results? A sort of scruffy, grungy, seventies baroque A.K.A total radness. Chirping birds taken straight from Disney’s Bambi (the show was sponsored by the controversial cartoon purveyors) distorted classic alt-rock ballards upon entry and exit to the show (Radiohead for one) and this sort of mind-melting hodge-podge is not only the thing (my) dreams are made of, but what Romance Was Born’s ‘Mushroom Magic’ was all about.
The hair and make-up spoke (literal) volumes for where Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales’ inspiration came from. Pastel bowl cuts and exaggerated lashes complimented the first story perfectly: a series of candy-coloured dresses that had Jetsons Lounge Wear written all over them (in actual fact there was a print of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, of course). The set, designed by Tanya Schultz of Pip and Pop reflected the mushroom silhouettes and silk organza of these pieces perfectly (and also inspired endless musing about what kind of activities one could get up to in this alternate reality, in one of those dresses (probably on drugs)). As Lenchantin’s performance accelerated into darker, more complex territory, so did the clothing - those aforementioned naïve little sprites turned into subversive fembots. Navy and orange were added to the palette and silhouettes became more restrictive, sexier. A sheer nightgown covered printed hot pants, the fabric of which extended to an excellent – perhaps my outfit of the show – matching flared pant and double-denim-jacket combo. The latter section of the performance – because it was a true performance - reflected the lightness of being of earlier pieces in fabric: sparkly, heavenly (think My Little Ponies and everything girly, ever) feathers were woven into pants and maxi skirts and the closing pose - four or five girls, one from each section, reclining in the marshmallow set - cemented Romance Was Born’s ethereally dystopian vision for the future. The show made me wish all my dreams looked – and sounded – like it did, and you couldn’t ask for more than that really, could you?
Show photos to follow, in the meantime: Check. It. Out.