In most “normal” scenarios, one can hardly think of a situation in which Australian model Megan Gale would simply blend in. And yet, as statuesque as she looked in her Rebecca Vallance gown and Tiffany & Co jewels, Saturday night’s NGV gala — the first since 2019 — was owned by some of Australia’s true fashion diehards.
After all, with a brief of simply “McQueen” – after Alexander McQueen, the subject of this summer’s fashion exhibition – this was a night where everything from a flannel shirt to an intricately beaded dress would do.
Those who stuck to the black tie script, including Gale, actress Phoebe Tonkin and former foreign minister Julie Bishop, who amped up the bling in deference to the late designer, looked perfectly at home.
But it was difficult to maintain eye contact in a conversation with identities such as Richard Nylon, who morphed into a magnificent human bird’s nest (“UFO in an English wood”, he called it), and New Zealand model Manahou Mackay, who swanned by wearing the “rusted funnel dress” by Melbourne graduate designer Sean McCallum.
There were drag queens and tiaras, capes and one-night-stands with facial piercings (“My mum would kill me,” joked stylist Elliot Garnaut), and flirtations with colour by fashion plates who regularly stick to a monochromatic palette. In the case of Sydney influencer Nadia Fairfax, the opposite was true. “I never wear black!” she cooed, in her Effie Kats sheath dress and Jill Humphries hat.
There were dresses that needed their own transport – Kallie Blauhorn’s periwinkle tulle gown won “biggest in show”, with Brioney Prior’s black Toni Maticevski gown a close second — and several gowns, such as Maria Thattil’s Con Ilio serpentine creation, that would set off even the most lackadaisical metal detector.
While there were still plenty of men in penguin suits, it was the men in “magpie” suits — singer Troye Sivan in bedazzled Gucci and model Jarrod Scott in a silky tie-died suit and black lace shirt — who stole plenty of thunder from the women. Plenty of men with fewer than one million Instagram followers also raised the bar. As for who they were, who can say: strains of “who is THAT?” were heard on repeat throughout the party’s various enclaves from sunset to well past midnight.