Monday, September 10, 2012

In praise of: Judith Baragwanath

Fashion week has been and gone but we still have the HoS to remind us. A good piece by Chloe Johnson takes us back to the glory days of Judith Baragwanath and Stephanie Overton in the 1970s. Both are pictured above: Overton on the left and Baragwanath on the right. Typical Herald: the photographer is not credited but the picture researcher is. The story was headlined “Kiwi model’s journey from wool to writing”. Baffingly, APN has not seen fit to put it online, so here it is. The intro was:
Photo recall: The life of a fashion model is generally nasty, brutish and short. Judith Baragwanath, who first modelled for Vogue as a 15-year-old, was one of the few to transcend that and become a style icon.
And the story was:
They called it pure virgin wool, and these two young models helped make it all the rage in the 1970s. Stephanie Overton (left) and Judith Seay (now Judith Barag­wanath) were just teenagers when they posed for the New Zealand Wool Board’s fashion shoot, dressed in check coat dress and mini skirt made from virgin wool, with pantyhose and white Daisy Duck clodhoppers. Virgin wool is simply wool spun for the first time, rather than recycled wool.
Baragwanath says the shoot was done at fashion photographer Desmond Williams’ studio to demonstrate how products pro­gressed from the sheep’s back to final garments.
“It would have been a full eight-hour shoot with dozens of clothes and, if we were lucky, someone would have done our hair pro­fessionally,” Baragwanath says.
She says Williams did their makeup, which was unusual for a photographer. “He liked to create an air of rivalry between models,” she recalls. “His thinking was a competitive atmosphere would bring the best out in us. Our thinking was, ‘oh, for God’s sake, grow up’.”
Baragwanath began modelling at 15 for the New Zealand edition of Vogue, but moved into journalism in the 70s where she became a fashion writer and the gossip columnist behind Felicity Ferret at Metro magazine.
The model-turned-journalist has always been the black sheep of the fashion family, opting for leather over wool in the 70s. “I had leather bell bottoms which had a tendency to stretch over time. I’d keep them tight in all the right places by stitching the seams with fishing tackle.
“If you knew the right places to go, there were Victorian nighties galore which looked great worn with black stockings and vintage fur coats with high, padded shoulders. I’ve still got them.”
In the 1980s, she donned black lipstick and men’s clothes – becoming known as “Black Lips”.
She calls today’s fashions “ghastly”. Yet she was rediscovered when Kate Sylvester used Bara­gwanath’s style as the inspiration for her 2009 Fashion Week collec­tion “Diamond Dogs”.
Baragwanath didn’t turn up to the Sylvester catwalk show then, and she’s not much interested in Fashion Week now. Now in her 60s, she confesses fashion and designs today “don’t do a thing for me”.
“I tend to agree with Oscar Wilde who said: ‘Fashion is so ghastly it needs to be changed every six months’.”
Judith is a national treasure, still beautiful and one of the wittiest people I know, but I’d love to have heard from Stephanie Overton too. Her subsequent life was a bit different from Judith’s.

When I went to the children’s school this morning a ferret ran across the road in front of me. Spooky or what?

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