Design: Pageant queens

High up in Mitchell House it’s action stations at the studio of Amanda Cumming and Kate Reynolds. One week before Melbourne Spring Fashion Week and the two 29-year-olds are busily sorting through racks heavy with their spring summer collection, Satin Ice. In the background are the sketches and fabric samples of the next autumn/winter collection, reminding the duo of the work to come. There’s certainly no time to waste.

The pair are used to the pace. Launched in 2010, their striking menswear label Pageant is garnering attention for its distinct aesthetic. “Pageant is all about casual sportswear with a futuristic sense,” Reynolds explains. “We are inherently Australian but have an international feel and we really want to take the everyday man to the next level with his aesthetic.”

Cumming and Reynolds first met in their late teens just over a decade ago at an art foundation course. They both went on to complete a bachelor of design (fashion) at RMIT, both finishing with first class honours in 2006. Together they travelled to London, where for almost three years they honed their skills.

Reynolds did an internship for menswear designer Cassette Playa before becoming the design assistant and studio manager at menswear designer Christopher Shannon. Cumming landed the design assistant role for menswear designer Tim Soar before moving on to production and sales for women’s wear label Christopher Kane. On return to Melbourne the duo launched Pageant almost immediately.

“Doing a label together was an idea we had been toying with for a number of years, but the timing had never been right,” Cumming says. “Coming back to Melbourne from London was a great opportunity for the two of us to finally start our label.”

The two are masters at using unconventional fabrics and combining textures to create Pageant’s modern aesthetic. “Our fabric choices act as the foundations to the overall feel of each collection and, although sometimes unusual, they are always wearable,” Cumming says. 

Satin Ice debuted at MSFW to raucous applause. The collection plays on the romantic side of the Pageant man with an ornate quality and striking details executed in pastel and muted hues. Influences for the collection were varied, from American contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley’s paintings and ideas of a hyper reality to American sculptor Claes Oldenburg’s giant dessert sculptures. 

“We want to remain quite a limited edition label, with small runs of interesting pieces that inspire and excite our followers,” Reynolds says. 

“The label continues to act as a creative umbrella as we collaborate on exhibition and styling work,” Cumming adds. 

If their current efforts are any indication, there’s plenty to expect from this creative pair. n

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