Museum Life: an Australian fashion icon


Linda Jackson surrounded by her creations 2011 Photo: Narelle Wilson (c) Linda Jackson

Thinking of iconic Australian fashion designers, you can’t go past designers Jenny Kee and Linda JacksonClose friends, they established their own labels in the 1970s and 1980s forging an approach to fashion design that was not purely based on mainstream fashions. They were inspired by Indigenous Australian culture and landscapes and created individual Australian fashion aesthetics.  The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne is currently showing a retrospective display of Jackson’s work.  ‘Linda Jackson Bush Couture’ (until the 9th September 2012) celebrates more than 40 years of practice and her significant and influential role in the Australian fashion industry. From appliqué, silkscreen printing, embellishment, patchwork and hand painting, her designs feature an explosion of colour and shape reminding the visitor that the 1970s and 1980s was a period of enormous creativity and experimentation in Australian fashion.

Left to Right: Flamingo Park, Sydney (fashion house) Australia 1973-95, silk, Desert spinifex costume 1989 screenprinted silk (taffeta) (taffeta), Sturt's Desert Pea outfit 1983 silk (organza) (taffeta),

Born in Melbourne in 1950 Linda Jackson studied fashion, design and photography in Melbourne. In the late 1960s she spent much time travelling around South East Asia and the Pacific, studying, absorbing and being influence by a range of cultures. After meeting Jenny Kee in 1972, they established Flamingo Park a boutique in the Strand Arcade in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall. There, she sold her clothing and textile designs alongside Kee. In the 1980’s Jackson spent time in central Australia working with Indigenous Australian artists, especially at the Utopia station in South Australia which specialises in batik. She returned to Sydney to create her Bush Couture label and designed some of her most iconic outfits, including the Sturt’s Desert Pea outfit 1983.  Since then she has gone on to peruse a range of creative projects with artists and fashion designer’s and is considered a central figure in the Australian Fashion industry.

Bush Couture, Sydney (fashion house) 1982-94 Linda Jackson born Australia 1950 Sturt's Desert Pea outfit 1983 silk (organza) (taffeta)

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s Linda Jackson endowed the Powerhouse Museum many of her designs as well as personal archive including newspaper articles, scrapbooks, artworks and business records. It is great to see Jackson’s work on display at the NGV as working behind the scenes of the Powerhouse Museum, I know how much the Linda Jackson collection is used by fashion designers and students. Although the minimalist 1990s saw a change in tastes, there has been a recent resurgence in interest of her designs. Young designers and established alike have been inspired by the work of Jackson. Romance Was Born and Therese Rawsthorne are examples of designers who have incorporated similar prints, construction and design approaches into their collections. The use of this permanent collection by designers is a reminder of the importance of such collections for the contemporary fashion industry.

Linda Jackson’s designs on display are a reminder of the importance of her work in establishing a unique Australian design as well as the local industry. Whether you like her bold and bright designs or not, there is no doubt of her continued legacy. The display and collecting of such pieces is essential as they continue to inspire, engage and challenge designers into the future.

Further reading:,341,774,

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