Making local history at fashion exhibition

Lover Lover creative director Abby Melton with the crown she made for the ‘‘Maritza Boutique...
Lover Lover creative director Abby Melton with the crown she made for the ‘‘Maritza Boutique/Oamaru-London’’ exhibition running at the Forrester Gallery. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH
Oamaru's fashionable past has been brought into the present through the Forrester Gallery’s latest exhibition.

"Maritza Boutique/Oamaru-London" was a celebration of Oamaru’s fashion design history combined with local contemporary creatives, gallery curator Imogen Stockwell said.

The Maritza Boutique was a collective of Oamaru women who set up a clothing business in 1966, creating bespoke garments for local women until 1978, when it closed because of a fire.

It was founded by Marjorie Dench, and named for her daughter, Maritza Tschepp.

Eight garments from the boutique, belonging to the Waitaki Museum Collection, made up the core part of the exhibition, and eight local artists, who all worked in wearable accessories, were each asked to create an accessory to accompany one garment.

The contemporary works were made by Michele Beaufoy, Iain Clark, Ingrid Cole, Susan McLean, Abby Melton, Dyan Prujean and Helen Strachan.

Mrs Melton, who launched her jewellery brand Lover Lover in November 2020, created a crown to go on show, and said she felt "really privileged to have been thought of".

"I felt really proud and privileged to be part of it.

"Fashion is such a huge part of what inspires me and my work as well, so just to be a part of that is pretty amazing."

The crown was constructed using acrylic resin, mirror acrylic, bamboo and ribbon.

Each artist was asked to choose two garments they would like to work with, and were given one of those choices.

"I was drawn to this piece for the beautifully tailored lines, luxurious fabrics, high neck line, covered button detailing, beaded bow and voluminous skirt."

She was excited the gallery, with the Waitaki Museum and Archive Te Whare Taoka o Waitaki, had decided to buy her crown to add to the collection.

Ms Stockwell said the idea for the exhibition came from the Costume and Textiles Association of New Zealand’s symposium, which was supposed to be held in Oamaru this year.

The symposium was postponed until next year because of the Omicron outbreak, but it was decided the exhibition should still go ahead.

The collection had been building over recent years, a wedding dress the most recent acquisition last year, and they had not been shown "en masse" until now.

The third and final part of the exhibition was a film featuring teenage models wearing the Maritza garments in Oamaru.

" ... these garments were designed to be worn. Just being on a mannequin’s not the same," Ms Stockwell said.

"I think [the film] really adds something more to the exhibition, which people will hopefully enjoy."

Marjorie Dench had died a few years ago, but Maritza Tschepp lived in London, and had helped with some of the exhibition text. Tschepp had won the Benson and Hedges Fashion Awards Supreme Award in 1977 at age 23, and her gown was on display in Te Papa as part of the Eden Hore collection. She had continued designing in London, but then became a teacher after having children.

The exhibition is on at the Forrester Gallery until July3.



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