We’re kicking off our pre-festival coverage of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival in Brisbane with a very exciting interview.
Dr Nadia Buick has the kind of career that many dream of – a fashion curator, writer and researcher; her days involve the intellectual, theoretical and critical examination of the art that is fashion in all its stunning forms. This week, I was lucky enough to get a glimpse into her world… read all about a special free event at the State Library of Queensland during the festival.
Allie: Nadia, as a Fashion Curator, can you tell me what a typical day involves for you?
Nadia: One of the great things about my job is that there isn’t really such a thing as a ‘typical’ day. It comes with the territory of being a freelancer and working across multiple projects that each day can be pretty different. I’m lucky to have quite a few exciting projects on my plate at the moment, and that keeps each day engaging and different. But even with all of this variety, each working day generally involves some combination of the following: planning, researching, writing, editing, lots of meetings and some hands-on fun stuff (like looking through collections).
Allie: Can you tell me where your love of fashion first came from?
Nadia: It’s tricky to pinpoint. I was instinctively drawn to beautiful things from a very young age, so it’s no surprise that fashion was important to me. I continue to find fashion interesting due to its quite distinctive place in our lives. Even if we feel separate from the fashion system, clothing and dress are forms of self-expression and can help us to communicate or obfuscate our identity.
Allie: Where do you find sources of inspiration for your work?
Nadia: One of the most striking things about fashion is what a voracious appetite it has for everything around it. It draws on art, literature, film, history, music, culture. Curating fashion requires a familiarity with all of these sources, to understand and explore the many references fashion makes across the past and present. Film, art, and literature are particular passions of mine. I also find vintage and historical clothing endlessly inspiring; I have quite a collection of my own.
Allie: You’re involved in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival in Brisbane in August – can you tell me about this and how you came to be involved with the festival?
Nadia: I began my involvement with Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival in 2009, working on developing a series of public programs with colleagues Alison Kubler and Louise Martin-Chew called Fashion After Hours. These conversations about fashion were designed to complement the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival runway shows while also appeal to a new audience. Each year since then I’ve been involved in facilitating a panel discussion on a wide range of topics, from sustainability, to collecting fashion, to luxury – this year’s topic. The word luxury is so over-used in contemporary culture and I’m really looking forward to hearing the variety of perspectives the panelists will bring to the table. We have some academics and industry professionals coming up from Sydney and Melbourne, as well as some local experts. To deliver the discussions we have developed a partnership with State Library of Queensland and QUT Fashion. The talk is free, and will take place at SLQ on Tuesday August 26th at 6.30pm.
Allie: What is your favourite fashion destination?
Nadia: My favourite place is New York, and it happens to also be a wonderful place for fashion. I particularly love the number of flea markets there – a great place to satisfy my vintage habit!
Allie: What is the most exciting part of your job?
Nadia: I always feel really privileged that I get to work with collections of fashion, whether in a museum storeroom or someone’s home. Being allowed to see things that may have never been exhibited is a great honour. I love learning about or imagining the lives lived in clothing.
Allie: What have been some of your career highlights so far?
Nadia: Establishing and directing The Fashion Archives (thefashionarchives.org) with my wonderful partner-in-crime and collaborator, Madeleine King, has been really incredible. Successfully creating something and making it happen is very rewarding. We hope to keep it going for many years to come! For the past couple of years I have also been working on a very ambitious and thrilling project with the Museum of Brisbane as a Guest Curator on an exciting fashion exhibition called Costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood, opening in November 2014.
Allie: What advice do you have for people who might want to follow in your footsteps in the industry?
Nadia: I definitely think there is a place for more people interested in taking an intellectual and critical approach to fashion, whether as a curator, writer, designer or some other role. It’s a notoriously difficult industry to break in to and succeed in, so it is really advisable to think long and hard about whether you want to do it or not! The fashion world may appear very glamorous from the outside, but the reality is quite different. I suppose my advice would be to be pragmatic and realistic with your goals and expectations.
Huge thanks to Nadia for chatting to me this week! The countdown is on!
Images by Wen-Cheng Liu and peterned