‘Style is eternal’ may be Chanel’s words


“Style is eternal” may be Chanel’s words, but it is certainly proved by the El Jay and Christian Dior exhibition, which opened in Auckland on Friday night. (June 4).    Some of the garments may be more than 60 years old, but  still look modern, and stunning.

Sixty-seven exquisite pieces of glamour starting from a 1947 red and black marl suit to a 1988 candy pink taffeta two piece dress are on display and each one is a masterpiece of tailoring, detail, colour, texture and perfection.   Many could be worn today and not look out of place.  It was hard to decide on a personal favourite, but the deep blue, over lavender lining strapless, ruched evening dress is very beautiful.

What is also remarkable that so many people have kept these treasures and have been generous enough to lend them for the exhibition.   And, to make it more interesting each one carries its own brief story.

The exhibition, which runs until July 17 at the Gus Fisher Gallery in Shortland St, Auckland is the first exhibition of the new Fashion Museum, being established by Doris de Pont, an Auckland award-winning designer, turned museum curator.

She chose Gus Fisher’s El Jay label to launch her new museum and to honour Gus Fisher and the impact he has had on the New Zealand fashion scene, since he began in 1938 and stayed in the fashion business for 50 years, closing the El Jay doors in 1988.

For 33 of those years Gus Fisher held the licence to manufacture Christian Dior garments in New Zealand.   The El Jay salons were as elegant as the clothes, styled on French boutiques and created to a style we had not seen in Auckland before.  As a child, I remember the sense of mystery when peering through the El Jay spacious and luxurious shop front on Remuera Rd and the salon in 246 Queen St. A slice of Europe had arrived.

Gus Fisher’s philosophy was that women did not need many clothes, but good clothes suitable for every occasion.   In those grasceful days of yesteryear society was more structured and there was a dress code for WHAT to wear WHEN.   Your dress for morning coffee, could certainly not be worn to afternoon tea or dinner, not that you could not be seen in the same clothes twice in the one day, but the “dress code” meant you wore a different sort of outfit, depending on the occasion.   Haven’t things changed!

“Ultra suede” fabric was one of El Jay’s trademarks in the late 1970s and early 1980s and made famous by the America’s “royalty”, the Kennedy women wearing it.   The fabric looks as pristine today as it did 30 years ago.

The opening was a wonderful time to catch up with so many people, including the doyenne of interior design, Nanette Cameron, who taught me interior design.    She loved the exhibition and remarked how wonderful it was to see so much colour in the El Jay designs  instead of today’s strongly black fashion trends.    Nanette looked colouful herself in a black satin jacket shimmering with multi coloured circles.


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