When the Melbourne-based fashion designer Christopher Graf created his striking Tusk dress in 1999, he had been operating his label for more than fifteen years. In the early 1980s Graf was one of a new wave of young and innovative designers who made their start under the aegis of the Fashion Design Council (FDC). Founded in 1983 the FDC promoted the work of local independent fashion designers by staging fashion parades and events, exhibitions and seminars. Graf regularly showed his collections alongside other established and emerging designers such as Martin Grant, Sara Thorn and Bruce Slorach, Brighid Lehmann, Gavin Brown, Jenny Bannister and the milliner Tamasine Dale. Although widely diverse in their design aesthetic, the designers were like-minded in their approach to fashion as a form of creative endeavour which allowed for individual expression.
The strong clean lines of Graf’s work were created through complex cutting techniques and precise fit and finish. Bold colour combinations were also a signature feature of his work, as were concealed details, such as interior heart-shaped pockets and vibrantly coloured linings. Created from red and pink wool crepe, Tusk dress has been cut from continuous lengths of cloth which interlock with each other in graduated tusk-like incisions down the length of the fitted A-line dress. Graf set out to create a complex dress that looked simple and timeless on the body. At once strongly graphic and playful in appearance, Graf took delight in the fact that, when laid out on the table, the pattern pieces for Tusk dress gave no indication of what it would look like when finished.
This work is one of six outfits by Graf which were recently acquired by the NGV, thus strengthening its representation of designers who were a part of a particularly vibrant period of Australian fashion which emerged in the 1980s.