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Runway to raceday

Rebecca Davis speaks with some key Jewish fashion and beauty players who share insights and trend predictions ahead of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

At the Melbourne Cup media launch this week. Photo: Peter Haskin
At the Melbourne Cup media launch this week. Photo: Peter Haskin

Rebecca Davis speaks with some key Jewish fashion and beauty players who share insights and trend predictions ahead of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

It’s 4.30am and while most of Melbourne sleeps, Iris Wieselmann does not.

Make-up brushes are meticulously prepared and eyeshadow palettes are at the ready as the first of her clients arrives at her South Yarra salon, Mark Wieselmann.

It is the same early morning routine every year for each race day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

The carnival kicks off with the AAMI Victoria Derby Day on Saturday, followed next week by the Lexus Melbourne Cup Day, Kennedy Oaks Day and the Seppelt Wines Stakes Day.

Last year, the four-day carnival injected almost $445 million to the Victorian economy – $57 million alone was the result of fashion sales and grooming. But what does that actually look like?

59,664 pairs of shoes, 48,585 dresses, 15,474 suits, and 55,739 hats and fascinators, to be exact.

It is an exhilarating vision for any woman – or man – whose closet is bursting at the seams (ahem); and for retailers as the world of fashion continues to face its challenges.

But beyond the economic value of the Carnival, and the 157-year history etched into the hallowed turf of Flemington, is an event that is inextricably woven into the nation’s cultural identity.

It is an opportunity for creative freedom and self-expression – and fashion, millinery and make-up are the play pits of endless possibility.

Hair and make-up artist Iris Wieselmann has over 30 years’ experience with clients ranging from Real Housewives and Bachelorettes to models and TV personalities. She has seen the racing trends that stick, and those that come and go.

“This year, it is all about the dewy face,” she reveals.

“Clients are opting for a more natural look with less foundation. There is more focus on the eyes with beautiful bronze metallic colours and pinky champagnes featuring prominently.”

Meanwhile, others are preferring a bold lip. Orange tones are proving popular, but the classic reds and pinks also remain firm favourites.

While there are many often daunting considerations for the novice race-goer – fashion, make-up, millinery, footwear and accessories – Iris suggests keeping it simple.

“If you’re not good at doing make-up, steer clear of the smokey eye,” she advises.

“Go less. If you focus on eyeliner and lashes – either lots of mascara or false lashes – you can’t go wrong.”

But strong eyebrows are a must, she insists, for “they bring shape and bring structure to the whole face”.

Meanwhile, hair trends remain fairly consistent around the races, with slight variations on classic styles each year. Ponytails are having their moment, Iris observes, while low buns and soft vintage curls are also common requests.

“I think it is important to listen to what the client wants and to make them feel comfortable and confident,” she says.

Striking the balance between what is on trend, and what is representative of your individual style is the beauty, and challenge of the races.

And when it comes to fashion, Melissa Singer is across all the trends. The former AJN deputy editor is Fairfax Media’s deputy lifestyle editor, and fashion editor. She is also a judge for the Myer Fashions on the Field, and the Emerging Designer award. A veteran of the course, this spring racing season alone she will attend seven race days.

“Fashion definitely provides some dramatic moments at Flemington. Sometimes it’s because of the celebrities; and sometimes you might discover somebody that you never knew before,” tells Melissa.

“But what I love about the races is there is no real right or wrong in terms of trends. And there is no real limit to what you can do.”

With that said, what looks can we expect to see at Flemington for 2018?

“The pantsuit is having its moment in the spot light right now,” says Melissa.

“What I love is how women are giving them a bit of a twist to elevate them for the racetrack. They don’t just look like they are off to work,” she adds.

And be prepared for flowers as a big motif this year – much like the butterfly and insect themes of last year.

“We are also seeing dresses with structured shoulders. I think it is nice to either offset those stronger looks with more del- icate, feminine millinery – or play up on the structure even more.”

But it is not just about the dresses. Men’s fashion is just as much part of the racewear conversation.

“There is no rule that says you need to buy a new suit for the races, but it’s about how you make that suit look like you meant it for the races and not for Monday morning’s marketing meeting,” explains Melissa.

“That might mean buying a new shirt in a colour, or getting a tie and a pocket square that complement each other. There are little floral lapel pins, or some guys can even rock the kerchief look.”

Melissa Singer. Photo: Peter Haskin.

But remember the basic codes of Carnival dressing.

Derby Day is monochrome; Cup Day is a colour explosion; Oaks is everything flirty and feminine; and the Stakes are relaxed chic.

Although there is still fluidity in finding your unique look, Melissa says.

Separates pieces are a different option as opposed to a dress; as are finding ways to incorporate the theme of the Carnival day with the introduction of accents.

It is a commonly accepted fact that the black dress is the trusty friend and go-to for most women, particularly of Melbourne origin. And that’s okay, affirms Melissa.

“If you have found a killer dress for Cup Day and it happens to black, I wouldn’t say don’t wear it. I think there is enough colour around, but maybe just think about how you can inject little pops of colour.”

Basically, get creative.

“Even if you find a little scarf and you tie it around your wrist, or to your bag, there are little ways that you still feel that you are getting into the spirit of the day.”

As for designers this year, Melissa loves the coveted Australian labels, Manning Cartell, Rebecca Vallance, Dion Lee and of course, Camilla and Marc – the luxury label by the Jewish sibling duo, Camilla Freeman-Topper and Marc Freeman.

She also praises the new kid on the block, Elliatt, “who are doing fantastic dresses around the $200 mark that are just perfect for races”.

And they wear incredibly well, Melissa is reliably informed by a contact in the dress rental game.

But how does one marry the outfit with the headwear?

“Don’t try and make the outfit scream from top to toe,” says Melissa.

“Pick one item as your feature piece, and then build around that, but don’t overpower. Don’t let any element of your outfit fight another element.”

When choosing an outfit, Kelly Lippman recommends starting with the dress, “something that you feel great in, and let the dress inform the other accessories”.

Kelly is the creative director behind the well loved millinery and accessories label, Olga Berg.

“The headpiece comes next, as finding the perfect item can be tricky especially if you’re not used to wearing headwear. Shoes follow and finally your bag.”

But with the plethora of fascinator and hat options, where does one begin?

Headbands and knotted turban styles are still trending strongly this year, she says.

“Turbans go with everything and have that 50s look that is so hot right now. With all the solid coloured dresses around – think Rebecca Vallance, Yeojin Bae, Maticevski – adding a printed or jacquard turban just pops.”

The Lil Assymetric Lily Halo, an Olga Berg favourite chosen by Kelly Lippman.

For those who prefer the brimmed variety of headwear, the boater hat is back and is favoured by many stylists, “suggesting that next year we will see more of these larger pieces”, she observes.

Irrespective of what you opt for, don’t take it too seriously.

“Have fun with at least one of your accessories – whether it’s your headpiece, bag or shoes.

“And if you can’t find the perfect match to your outfit, opt for a metallic. Rose gold, for example, coordinates well with blush coloured shoes without being too contrived, as does gold and nude.”

But don’t feel compelled to match every piece.

“Coordinate two of your three accessories at a maximum! Don’t be afraid to use your bag or headpiece to introduce a pop of colour or a bit of fun to your outfit.”

And that’s what it all comes down to, an opportunity for fun, “and making people turn heads”, concurs Melissa.

“It doesn’t matter what is your age, size, race or sexuality. Everyone has the potential to have a head turning look. You just have to plan a bit, have a bit of imagination, and just have fun – that’s the most important thing.”

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