PP MFF FASHION CULTURE PROGRAM 2023 | CLARENCE CHAI: Melbourne fashion’s gentle pioneer with Sally Gray

Friday 10 Mar 2023, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM

Singapore-born, Melbourne designer Clarence Chai was a pioneer of innovative, independent, youth fashion in the 1970s and 80s.

His label ‘Chai’, and his retail stores in Crossley Street and Collins Street have been cited by NGV fashion curator, Danielle Whitfield as Melbourne’s version of the more famous Sydney store, Jenny Kee’s Flamingo Park. Whatever the comparisons, Clarence Chai was an innovator in his own right; famous among Melbourne’s adventurous dressers for his garments, often made from vintage fabrics, in Asian-inflected cuts and designed for women and men in an early version of unisex dressing; some of this work appeared in the NGVs recent Queer exhibition

Clarence is often described by his contemporaries as a ‘quiet achiever’, someone ‘didn’t blow his own trumpet’ or engage in ‘self-promotion’. So perhaps it’s time that this fashion pioneer, who died in 2022, gained the long- term reputation he so richly deserves.

This talk by DR SALLY GRAY, who wrote the book, Friends, Fashion and Fabulous: The Making of and Australian Style, will focus on fashion influences from Clarence’s childhood in Singapore, his art and design education at RMIT and Prahran Tech, his fashionable Melbourne queer circles and the evolution of his career in fashion.

This lecture is presented as part of the PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival’s FASHION CULTURE PROGRAM by TJC.

This lecture is presented ON-SITE at TJC. Please see your ticket for details.

This lecture is supported by The Colin Holden Charitable Trust.

image caption
Clarence Chai ‘Razorblade Jumpsuit’ 1978
Exhibited in Queer: Stories from the NGV Collection 2022
Photo: Sally Gray

Paypal Melbourne Fashion Festival
SOLD OUT This event is currently at capacity. If you wish to be added to the waitlist, please email or call The Johnston Collection on (03) 9416 2515 and we will contact you if places become available.