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Dressed for success

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Photography: Ed Purnomo Magazine Issue: # 42 Autumn Ocean Road Magazine

Melbourne designer Natalie Hutton describes the thrill of winning a prestigious international World of Wearable Art award for her Claudia Savage label.

Melbourne designer Natalie Hutton has taken home her first international accolade at the World Of Wearable Art (WOW) awards in New Zealand.

One of only eight Australian finalists at the gala event in September, Natalie’s Claudia Savage was up against 148 finalists from 17 countries. Her debut piece, ‘Echoplex – Goddess of Reverb’, took out the coveted Avant-garde section at the 30th  annual awards.
For Natalie, the news that she had won one of the biggest design awards in the world was surreal to say the least.

“An outer-body experience is the best way to describe it,” she says. “It’s going to take some time to sink in. I’ve been an exceptionally hard critic on myself for my whole life that having such a long-standing and internationally renowned creative institution recognise you in such a way has really knocked me into an unfamiliar headspace. I’m not used to feeling ‘good enough’, and now my brain is having to reevaluate that narrative right now!”

Part of what inspired Natalie to submit her feature piece into the Avant-garde section was that she resonated with the competition brief to “dare to defy the boundaries of fashion and create a work that is unique and innovative, rejecting the ordinary and nurturing originality”.

“It is literally what I do,” Natalie says. “I’ve never been able to keep myself from going over-the-top when given a brief; however, in this case I was already over-the-top and the perfect brief came to me. The mystical grey area that is my creative life of too arty for fashion and too fashion for art found itself the perfect home.”

Natalie’s gown took eight years to bring to fruition. The garment itself weighs about 15kg and features 50 metres of hand-stitched honeycombed silk panels — 40 panels in all. Each individual panel took eight hours to complete by hand. This balances on a waist-cinching corseted bodice that aims to give a four-inch waist reduction.

All up, the gown took Natalie about 500 hours of sewing and is part of a seven-piece collection, Synaesthetics, inspired by the term ‘synaesthetic’, a perceptual phenomena and the way in which this talented designer derives her inspiration.

In addition to her win, Natalie also received some incredible feedback during her World of WearableArt experience.

“It’s been overwhelming in an awesome way,” she says. “I attended the pre-show and was blown away by the stage craft and the variety of the performances. I found myself teary when my gown was walked on stage.

“I don’t remember doing so, but apparently I squealed. It was so amazing to see it move around the stage under the lights and in a setting that it melded so well. I couldn’t believe the reception it received; I was just so damn happy.

“I also attended the designer’s day where we spent the day meeting fellow designers — it was so surprising to have fellow designers and the competition organisers come up to me to ask about, and compliment, my design.”

Winning the Avant-garde section award has confirmed to Natalie that she is on the right track and she is already planning her next project, a small limited-edition range of statement pieces.

“I have been creatively and professionally bolstered by this experience,” she says. “It’s comforting to know that there is an outlet for the more extravagant side of my work to be shown, but also that being multidisciplinary is not something to hide.

“It doesn’t make one of the things I do the ‘real job’ or the ‘hobby’; they all have equal weight, and I intend to enforce that by doing exactly what I want to do regardless of people’s opinions. Technically, I’ve always done that, but the WOW environment has cemented that mentality even more!”

And, of course, she is already thinking of future pieces for the next World Of WearableArt awards in 2019. This is just the start for Natalie Hutton and her Claudia Savage label.

* For more information on Natalie’s label, Claudia Savage, please visit www.claudiasavage.com

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