David Jones certainly gave a more sophisticated meaning to the term “tabletop dancer” at a summer launch that invoked both the spirit of post-war Dior and enough room transformations to rival an episode of The Block.
Atop a raised catwalk set between a lavishly set dinner table for more than 300 VIP guests – a nod to the 1948 Dior parade held in the same venue – the department store launched summer 2017 with a host of new fashion faces, as well as its most diverse model line-up in recent history.
Ambassadors Jessica Gomes and Jesinta Franklin led the all-Australian model line-up, which also included Victoria’s Secret alumni Shanina Shaik and Bridget Malcolm.
All-Australian line-up … (from left) Bridget Malcolm, Jessica Gomes, Jesinta Franklin and Shanina Shaik at rehearsals for the David Jones launch in Sydney on Wednesday. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
Proving age is no barrier to entry, David Jones also hired 1990s supermodels Emma Balfour and Anneliese Seubert for the show, which featured more than 230 looks from 40 local and international brands.
David Collins, group executive of merchandise, said the decision to have an all-Australian cast was inspired by the theme of the show, Endless Summer.
“We have ramped it up this year by using some of the best Australian supermodels … diversity is very important to us as a business. The age diversity in this show is very unusual for us. We have Sarah-Jane Adams … she’s an amazing woman, just over 60 years old, or young, whichever way you look at it.
Tickled pink … David Jones ambassadors Jesinta Franklin (left) and Jessica Gomes in the finale at rehearsals on Wednesday. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
“Women in their 50s, 40s, 30s dress similarly and it’s important for us to illustrate that both in the fashions and the models walking.”
The LA-based 32-year-old Gomes, who has Chinese and Portuguese heritage, praised the diverse line-up in the show.
“I think it’s wonderful. Fashion is for all ages, right? It’s amazing we are being inclusive of that … and embracing different ethnicities, ages and types of models,” she said.
Jesinta Franklin in Alice McCall during a rehearsal for the David Jones Spring Summer 2017 Collections Launch. Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images for David Jones
While there was no star male model, Shaik’s fiance DJ Ruckus did double duty, modelling with his future bride, including an adorable on-stage kiss, and playing a live set at the after party.
Wednesday’s show is the last to be held on the top floor of the Sydney flagship store before a $200-million refurbishment. This time next year, On Seven will be home to one of the largest shoe departments in the country.
Franklin said the weight of history was on the minds of the cast backstage as they prepared for the show.
In love and in fashion … Shanina Shaik and DJ Ruckus walk the runway during rehearsal ahead of the David Jones Spring Summer 2017 Collections Launch. Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images for David Jones
“Usually it’s really manic but it has a really chilled out vibe. I’m not going to say it’s a sombre mood but people realise the significance of the event,” she said. “It’s exciting but it’s sad.”
Gomes added: “I did my first David Jones show on level seven so it’s kind of bittersweet. But it’s important for every brand and every person to evolve and change.”
The parade emphasised four key trends for summer: 1980s-inspired Midnight Glam; a relaxed take on Victoriana dubbed New Romantic; luxury folk in Artesian Boho; and the bold and bright Club Tropicana.
Bridget Malcolm poses on the elevated catwalk following rehearsal ahead of the David Jones Spring Summer 2017 Collections Launch. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images for David Jones
Gomes said she was particularly fond of the 1980s – and has some of her mother’s jumpsuits in her wardrobe.
“I’m going to pull them out again – I like a good shoulder pad.”
As well as the fashions, the event was a launch pad for David Jones’ $100-million play for Australian appetites through its new food strategy.
Guests including Today host Karl Stefanovic and Australian male supermodel Jordan Barrett feasted on snacks created by celebrity chef Neil Perry, including Sydney Rock Oysters and eastern rock lobster.
After the plates were cleared, the dining table effectively became the runway, with Gomes opening the show in newcomer Aje. The parade closed with a designer mash-up that paid homage to the dominance of red and pink this season.
The writer travelled to Sydney as a guest of David Jones.