THE STORY: ALTERNATIVE FASHION AS ART
by Rai Keodara
THE BIRTH OF DESIGN.
In 2013, I launched VENTRILOQUIST COURT®, initially known as ‘MUSE Alternative’ for several months, on Etsy as an independent crafts and fashion brand of tea-dyed creations. Initially, it began as a crafts store with a couple of fashion items. However, as one garment design followed another, Ventriloquist Court® soon grew into a Victorian-inspired fashion and costume line, with its own website ventriloquistcourt.com showcasing Romantic Cottage, Steampunk, Gothic & Visual Kei attire (all designed and handmade by me in Sydney).
GIFT GIVING, SYDNEY, & FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY
VENTRILOQUIST COURT® was born from both my reaction against Sydney conservatism and from my newfound passion in alternative fashion, costume, and fine art photography. Growing up in Sydney and thus largely restricted to mainstream consumption, I’ve always found shopping for unique gifts rather disappointing. This prompted me to self-learn sewing and to make craft items for family and friends. Having received positive feedback on my ‘antiqued’ crafts over the years, I then wanted to try my hand at ‘antique’ costume design. I had found my true calling. I had a knack for design, as well as for the more technical aspects of pattern making, sewing, crafting, and tailoring garments. As one idea would always give birth to another, I was fortunate enough to be able to add a humble collection to my name by late 2014.
This period in my life coincided with a growing interest in fashion and costume photography as a hobby photographer who was bored with Sydney’s conservative culture and attitudes. What started as crafting antique-style props for my own photo shoots slowly grew into a line of crafts and then costumes and fashion with an emerging style possibly defined as ‘Tea Alternative’, and although I could not then and still cannot today define this style in precise words, I knew that it was something which I wished to share beyond my immediate circle.
The word ‘art’ has become commonplace – used in association with such examples as music and song writing, poetry and other forms of literature, traditional as well as abstract art whether in sculptural form or even in performance and so on – making it almost impossible to define. For me, my work is also an art form, though I am fully aware that this reference would provoke protest from elitist circles and overseers of Art (with a capital ‘A’).
I disagree with the use of the label ‘superficial’ to belittle all fashion; consumption of visual art in the form of drawings and paintings in galleries is deemed high culture, and yet to show passion for art in the form of garments and accessories displayed on the human body is considered superficial. I do believe that both types of art tap into the same creative inspiration, and I hope that my collection of textile art costumes will help change attitudes and encourage an appreciation of art in its varying forms.