FROM THE LAND OF OZ

Jenny Kee Waratah Silk Scarf

Australians are often guilty of a cultural inferiority complex, a sentiment that has manifested as a result of our colonial origins. The 60s is a time known for rebellion and hedonism – a testament to the collective power of youth – with many personalities from the era immortalised as pop culture icons. But it seems a shame that the contributions of our own go largely unrecognised by the Australian youth culture of today. Political satirists Richard Neville, Martin Sharp and the Oz zine team; feminist Germaine Greer; art critic Robert Hughes; film maker Philipe Mora were a group of Australians, dubbed the “downundergrounders”, who significantly contributed to the changing political, cultural and social landscape of Swinging London. Fashion designer and textile artist Jenny Kee was among them…

With Richard Neville, Louise Ferrier and Colonel Neville

A passionately loyal Australian, Jenny Kee seems to have the knack of being in the right place at the right time. Born to an Italian mother and a Cantonese father, she grew up on Bondi beach. Overwhelmed by the constraints of a conservative Australia, Jenny escaped to London in 1965. Her memoir ‘A Big Life’, recounts this time with a bounding energy, as she casually recalls run-ins, parties and liaisons with every character of the swinging-60s – John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Penelope Tree, Eric Clatpton, Anita Pallenberg. While in London she worked with her mentor and friend Vern Lambert at the famous Chelsea Antique Market, which she refers to as her “university of fashion and life”. This was a time when the idea of wearing vintage was new, and the embroidery, embellishment and textiles of exotic cultures began to be seen as wearable fashion. Jimi Hendrix was a frequent shopper, remembered by Jenny as “a bird of paradise”, who wore jade jewellery, pink crushed-velvet pants, an Edwardian jacket made from purple and green Chinese silk, and a ruffled shirt with a red and orange Op Art print.

Jenny Kee in her Pakistani peasant dress, Chelsea Markets, 1969; image from A Big Life, by Jenny Kee, published by Penguin

Jenny and Louise Ferrier Oz magazine cover

Her experiences working at the market fostered a love and great eye for textiles and print, which she put to good use when she, and creative soulmate Linda Jackson, set up their boutique Flamingo Park in Sydney’s Strand Arcade 1972. From there the two pioneered a unique vision of Australian fashion, inspired by native iconography, Aboriginal art and interpretations of the indigenous art and textiles from all over the world. Jenny became famous for her pure wool knits with Australian motifs; the most famous being her “Blinky Bill” design worn by Princess Diana when she was pregnant with Prince William. She also began designing her own prints, using a collage technique of small hand drawings and paintings. Her opal print was used by Karl Lagerfeld for his first collection for Chanel in 1982.

Jenny and her friend from the Chelsea markets, Ulla; image from A Big Life, by Jenny Kee, published by Penguin

Jenny and her husband of 21 years artist, Michael Ramsden in London; image from A Big Life, by Jenny Kee, published by Penguin

Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson modelling their designs; left, Bondi Blue and Opera House; right Tutti Frutti and Trixie Dixie 1975; image from A Big Life, by Jenny Kee, published by Penguin

Jenny in her store Flamingo Park; image from A Big Life, by Jenny Kee, published by Penguin

Jenny, Vern Lambert and Anna Piaggi in the Australian bush; image from A Big Life, by Jenny Kee, published by Penguin

After a lengthy hiatus she is back, contributing to the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival retrospective earlier this year and working on her latest project the “Art of the Scarf”, with her original artworks and paintings digitally printed direct to the most beautiful silks, in Sydney, Australia. (www.jennykee.com)

Jenny Kee opal print used by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel 1982 AND HER OPAL OZ CDC SCARVES FORM HER NEW RANGE at the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival retrospective; image by Fernando Barraza from backstagefix.com

At L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival Australian fashion retrospective; image by Fernando Barraza from backstagefix.com

Jenny’s Waratah SILK SCARF  FROM HER NEW RANGE at the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival retrospective; image by Fernando Barraza from backstagefix.com

Jenny with models wearing her designs; image by Fernando Barraza from backstagefix.com

Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson with Anna Plunkett of Romance Was Born; image by Daniel Boud, boudist.com

 

Share on FacebookShare on TwitterPin it on PinterestShare on Tumblr

4 thoughts on “FROM THE LAND OF OZ

  1. Pingback: thinkdesignerprints.com.au - SUBMERGED

  2. Pingback: thinkdesignerprints.com.au - LINDA JACKSON

  3. Pingback: I AM WARATAH | Think Positive Designer Prints

  4. Pingback: AUSTRALIAN FASHION LAUREATE WINNER | Think Positive Designer Prints

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>