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Fashion queen . . . Lover Lover creative director Abby Melton with the crown she made for the Maritza Boutique/Oamaru-London exhibition running at the Forrester Gallery. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

Oamaru’s fashionable past has been brought into the present, with the Forrester Gallery’s latest exhibition.

Maritza Boutique/Oamaru-London was a celebration of Oamaru’s fashion design history combined with local contemporary creatives, gallery curator Imogen Stockwell said.

The Maritza Boutique was a collective of Oamaru women who set up a clothing business in 1966, creating bespoke garments for local women until 1978, when it closed due to a fire.

It was founded by Marjorie Dench, and named for her daughter, Maritza Tschepp.

Eight garments from the boutique, belonging to the Waitaki Museum Collection, made up the core part of the exhibition, and eight local artists were asked to create an accessory each to accompany one garment.

The contemporary works were made by Michele Beaufoy, Iain Clark, Ingrid Cole, Susan McLean, Abby Melton, Dyan Prujean and Helen Strachan.

Mrs Melton, who launched her jewellery brand Lover Lover in November 2020, created a crown to go on show, and said she felt ‘‘really privileged to have been thought of’’.

‘‘As a designer, I kind of forget that I am an artist as well,’’ she said.

‘‘I felt really proud and privileged to be part of it.

‘‘Fashion is such a huge part of what inspires me and my work as well, so just to be a part of that is pretty amazing.’’

The crown was constructed using acrylic resin, mirror acrylic, bamboo and ribbon.
Each of the artists were asked to choose two garments they would like to work with, and were given one of those choices.

‘‘I was drawn to this piece for the beautifully tailored lines, luxurious fabrics, high neck line, covered button detailing, beaded bow and voluminous skirt. The fabrics and details really drew me in,’’ she said.

‘‘I knew I wanted to make something different, other than earrings, because that’s kind of what I’m, you know, more known for, I guess.’’

The gallery, with the Waitaki Museum and Archive Te Whare Taoka o Waitaki, had decided to buy Mrs Melton’s crown to add to the collection, which was ‘‘super exciting’’, she said.

Local history . . . The Forrester Gallery’s latest exhibition Maritza Boutique/Oamaru-London is a celebration of Oamaru’s fashion design history combined with local contemporary creatives. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Ms Stockwell said the idea behind the exhibition came from the Costume and Textiles Association of New Zealand’s symposium, which was supposed to be held in Oamaru this year.

The symposium was postponed until next year, due to the Omicron outbreak, but it was decided the exhibition should still go ahead.

‘‘By the time it got postponed, we were so far along in the planning, and we had so many people from the local community involved, that, actually, I didn’t want to cancel or postpone the exhibition, because I didn’t want to let people down locally.

‘‘Everyone’s had to deal with delays and stuff, but this is one thing where we didn’t actually have to.’’

The collection had been building over recent years, with a wedding dress the most recent acquisition last year, and they had not been shown ‘‘en masse’’ until now.

The local artists who were asked to create accessories to accompany the garments were selected due to the diversity of the media they worked with, and because they already worked in the ‘‘realm’’ of wearable accessories.

The third and final part of the exhibition was a film featuring teenage models wearing the Maritza garments around Oamaru.

‘‘Once things come into a collection in an art gallery or a museum, they get this static thing, and these garments were designed to be worn . .. just being on a mannequin’s not the same,’’ Ms Stockwell said.

‘‘I think [the film] really adds something more to the exhibition, which people will hopefully enjoy.’’

Marjorie Dench had died a few years ago, but Maritza Tschepp lived in London, and had helped with some of the exhibition text. Tschepp had won the Benson and Hedges Fashion Awards Supreme Award in 1977 at age 23, and her gown was on display in Te Papa, as part of the Eden Hore collection. She had continued designing in London, but then became a teacher after having children.

Maritza Boutique/Oamaru-London is on display at the Forrester Gallery until July 3.