The Vocabulary of Maltese Style | 100 Years of Maltese Fashion 1917 - 2017

Last Monday saw the unveiling of an exhibition at the House of Representatives which celebrates 100 years of Maltese Fashion. Entitled The Vocabulary of Maltese Style, the exhibition seeks to provide a link between fashion in the European continent and that created in the Maltese Islands and is being organised by the office of the Hon. Marlene Mizzi MEP under the auspices of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) within the European Parliament as part of the culture-boosting projects in view of Malta's Presidency of the EU. The Arts Council Malta and Heritage Malta are also supporting the event. The exhibition is curated by Gozitan fashion designer Luke Azzopardi, whose contributions to the local fashion industry during the last couple of years cannot go unnoticed.

Exhibition Promotional Banner - photo by Sean Mallia

Contrary to what is usually displayed in traditional costume exhibitions in the Maltese Islands, The Vocabulary of Maltese Style has opened a window onto richer examples of garments and accessories worn by the elite, which often times we tend to forget that this social class also formed part of the Maltese society.

The exhibition was officially inaugurated yesterday evening at the House of Representatives with a live defile by Carina Camilleri's Models M showcasing the Spring/Summer 2017 'Iconic' Collection by Charles and Ron, as well as Luke Azzopardi's 'Lamia', on the staircase adjacent to the House of Representatives right at the entrance to our capital city.

Charles & Ron Iconic S/S17 Collection

First showcased during New York and Los Angeles Fashion Weeks, Charles and Ron's S/S17 Collection is another regal tribute to the local heritage. Structured skirts, crop tops, and embellished dresses are only a small part of this collection in a palette of vibrant colours typical of our islands. The collection features wrought iron prints, the Maltese rock flower and the iconic Maltese wooden balconies. Again, C&R's love for anything Maltese really shines through and I don't know how they do it, but the power duo manage to outdo themselves over and over again with every collection they present! Well done! The makeup and hair for this show was by Inglot.

Photos by Jan Zammit

Luke Azzopardi Lamia Trans-seasonal Artisanal Collection 2017

Luke Azzopardi's Lamia is a collection of ethereal couture dresses made out of rich fabrics (Camilleri Paris Mode). His creations left me thinking of nymphs from the Greek mythology and rightly so, as Lamia is actually a demon in Greek mythology. What makes Luke's collections different from those of other designers is that he draws inspiration for his collections from literary works and manages to translate them flawlessly into fashion. For instance, Lamia is inspired by the namesake poem by John Keats (first published in 1820). For this show, Gabrielle Zammit Grungo did the models' makeup and Lara Theuma was in charge of the hair.

Photos by Jan Zammit

Official Opening of the Exhibition 

Following the fashion shows, we headed inside the parliament building for the official opening of the exhibition. The Hon. Marlene Mizzi, the Hon. Minister Dr. Helena Dalli and the Hon. Mr. Speaker Dr. Anglu Farrugia each made their addresses to inaugurate the exhibition and declare it officially open. As each of the speakers pointed out, fashion is not merely a way to express yourself, but it also speaks volumes about a society; for example, it reflects the economical status.

Mrs. Carina Camilleri introducing the event to Dr. Anglu Farrugia, Mrs. Farrugia, Hon. Minister Dr. Helena Dalli, Mrs. Marlene Mizzi MEP, Mrs. Cacciattolo

As stated before, the exhibits comprising The Vocabulary of Maltese Style exhibition are representative of what the Maltese elite chose to wear - silk, guipure lace, rich embroidered garments and hand-beaded bags are just a small example. Worth noting is that in the past, almost everything was custom made for the wearer as opposed to today's ready-to-wear collection and most dresses were commissioned for special occasions. It is interesting to note that Heritage Malta takes great care in restoring such garments in it collection in order to preserve the Maltese fashion cultural heritage as much as possible.

c.1900 - 2016 - Examples of fine gowns including a bridal gown from 1939. My favourite dress is hands down the one in blue tulle

The exhibition also comprises gowns worn by local sopranos and singers in shows abroad which were instrumental in putting Malta's name out there. There are also more modern garments from contemporary designers such as Charles & Ron, Saz Mifsud and Sef Farrugia, all three of which are some of my favourite local designers. Oriental and African influences have also played a part in the history of Maltese fashion as can be seen by the three fine examples in the second collage below.

Charles & Ron | Sef Farrugia | Saz Mifsud
Oriental and African influences in Maltese garments

The exhibition design and illustrations behind the garments are by the talented Andrew Borg Wirth and Matthew Attard Navarro respectively and I think the illustrations provide a modern take on the garments on display.

Charles and Ron also designed the scarves and ties worn by officials during the 6 months of Malta taking over the EU Presidency which came to an end yesterday. I was delighted to find a commemorative scarf in the bag which we were given along with a model of the Gardjola at Senglea.

I think this is a very good initiative and it opens a different perspective on our vast cultural heritage. I would like to once again extend my appreciation at Hon. Marlene Mizzi MEP for inviting me to this event. I command her expertise in the field and for organizing such a prestigious event of honour for our Malta.

I highly encourage you to visit this exhibition, for fashion is still a part of our culture heritage, whether past or present and such events shed a light on a part of history is more often than not taken for granted.

The exhibition will be open to the general public until the 5th July from 08:00 till 17:00 at the House of Representatives, Valletta.

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