Company of collaborators

Sara Munro. Photos: Supplied
Sara Munro. Photos: Supplied
Sara Munro is playing favourites, Tom McKinlay reports.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
There’s an iconoclastic satchel, upstaging jewellery, what might be called a repurposeful jacket and a print with the imprimatur of scandal on the Company of Strangers mannequin in Otago Museum’s "Fashion FWD>>" exhibition.

Company of Strangers girl boss (as she’s described on the label’s website) Sara Munro doesn’t call them greatest hits, rather they are favourites. Favoured for the fondly recalled collaborations captured in each.

"A lot of it was probably based on sentimentality, because of the enjoyment of the collaborations, I suppose," she says of her choices.

Munro pictures the mannequin — which stands in the "Godmothers of Dunedin Fashion" section of the exhibition — in her mind, because she’s on the phone somewhere else.

The green zigzag print is a signature move, she says.

It defies its own hem and pushes wilfully beyond the jacket cuffs.

"When we feel like it, not every season, we do our own signature print, depending on what’s going on," Munro says.

This one was inspired by Egon Schiele.

"One of my favourite artists."

It was maybe 2013, Munro thinks. She’s now having second thoughts about invoking Schiele’s spirit.

"Probably not a great person to pick in this day and age," she says.

Scandal was a close companion of Schiele through the fin de siecle Austrian artist’s short life. It ended with the Spanish flu, in an eery echo of our own times.

The Company of Strangers team includes a print maestro, Munro says, someone who prefers the work to be out front, so she won’t be named here.

The bag (c. 2012) is solar yellow and makes you want to look inside, as if the brightness might bestow a magical capaciousness. It was inspired by the pop iconography of street artist Keith Haring.

"He used to draw on walls, on trains, on buildings," Munro explains.

"At the time I was working with a guy called Harlequin Jones ... I gave him all these bags and gave him some pens and told him to draw all over them. And, kind of, go nuts."

A terrifying prospect: scribbling on $900 bags.

"I love that, taking something that is considered a luxury item and destroying it a little bit," she says with a high-rising terminal.

The (re)purposeful jacket (c. 2017) is made from vintage denim, which nods to the label’s origin story, back when Munro was stitching leather bags from old leather jackets.

"Using found items has always been somewhere in any of our collections," she adds, describing a practical sensibility.

"That was something we did way-pre any of the sustainability movement, really."

The choker necklace (c. 2013) was a collaboration again, with Anne-Mieke Ytsma, of Underground Sundae.

"It’s made, again, with a whole lot of foraged pieces of junk, I suppose. And then threaded with diamantes and chains and really random plastic stars — all sorts of things that you’d never look twice at."

"Not everyone would wear that all together," Munro says of the mannequin’s ensemble.

She uses the term mish-mash.

It’s unlikely anyone else would.

The talk

Sara Munro, Company of Strangers founder and designer, will talk at Otago Museum on Friday, May 7 at 5.30pm, as part of the ‘‘Fashion FWD>>’’ exhibition.

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