Fashion Redux: style notes with Melbourne stylist Ntombi Moyo

Melbourne stylist and creative director Ntombi Moyo is one of the star collaborators in the forthcoming Fashion Redux exhibition at Melbourne Museum, launching on Friday.

Ntombi joins a group of leading Melbourne fashion identities who have had the rare opportunity to raid the museum’s vast and fascinating fashion archives. Fashion Redux is a bold new collaborative exhibition, which launches this Friday night at Nocturnal. Contributors to the exhibit were set the task of creating a contemporary snapshot of how styles from the past can be reinterpreted to become part of the now.

Some of Melbourne fashion’s heavyweights were invited to shape the exhibition including fashion designers Alpha60, style sisters and Twoob founders How Two Live,  stylist Kate Gaskin, jewellery designer Kristy Dickinson, costume designer Marion Boyce, fashion designer Nixi Killick, milliner Melissa Jackson, couture house J’Aton and of course stylist Ntombi Moyo, who we caught up with to discuss this exciting fusion of styles from past and present, paying tribute to Melbourne’s history of innovation and opulence, the Fashion Redux.

TGW: When faced with the Museum’s extensive fashion archive, where on earth did you start? It was a challenge. Goodness! The fact that we could only choose a limited amount. There was just so much to choose from.

TGW: Did you have an idea in mind before you ventured in to the archive, or did it come later? No, not at all! I wanted to see what was there. Often it’s just what you gravitate towards once you see it. I love that adventure when it comes to picking out fashion pieces and garments. It was exciting to not have any clue about what I was going to see.

I love that adventure when it comes to picking out fashion pieces and garments. It was exciting to not have any clue about what I was going to see.

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Ntombi enjoyed the experience of not knowing what she was going to see in the Museum’s archives.

TGW: So with your concept that you ended up with, does it have a gender, or is it just what it is? I’d say it doesn’t have a gender, because if you want to wear it you can.

TGW: When you visited the archive, did you stay true to the eras of the garments, or did you just run around and grab things like a crazed speed shopper? I definitely just mixed it up. Honestly, I go with what strikes me and what I love… and what grabs me. I’m always drawn by things that are a little louder or extra, a feature piece. They had these amazing big robes with gold embroidery which were ridiculous. They had bedazzled jackets, and I did ended up using one of them. I just love it. It’s really loud and I know that it’s something that I would kill to wear, in my life. I don’t know how everyone else tackled it [the brief], but I honestly just went for what I love, and what I think looks bomb.

TGW: Which is probably why you were asked to participate, really. I notice that the brief given to you was to create a contemporary snapshot of how styles from the past can be reinterpreted to become part of the now, and that’s in the context of Melbourne. What does your Melbourne NOW, look and feel like?

…I go with what strikes me and what I love… and what grabs me. I’m always drawn by things that are a little bit more loud or extra, a feature piece.

NM: Amazing. Melbourne is definitely the best city I’ve lived in. I really love living here. I think a lot of it has to do with the creative scene that I’m a part of. The creatives make it. The Melbourne I live in now might not look the same for a lot of other people, but it’s a very well curated life, because I’ve found the specific types of people who I like to engage with who are open-minded, who like to explore fashion and the kinds of people who encourage others to do more. I don’t like the beige Brendas, you could call them, who want you to bring it down a notch or simmer down. I really surround myself with people who shriek, “Yasss, MORE! Extra, we love it!”

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I don’t like the ‘beige Brendas’ who want you to bring it down a notch or simmer down. I …surround myself with people who shriek, “Yasss, MORE! Extra, we love it!”

TGW: Yes and those people usually have the larger than life personality to match. Yeah and because I’m so deep in and surrounded by that embrace of love and openness and willingness to explore, I feel like nothing can really phase me. I grew up mainly in Adelaide, when I first moved to Australia, and it was a lot more conservative, so I have that contrast as well. Melbourne really allows me to be free and explore. Visual expression is how I speak.

Visual expression is how I speak.

TGW: And what better time to express that voice during Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival? Yes. I’m super excited and honoured to be involved. It’s going to be such an amazing time.

TGW: You mentioned that you moved to Adelaide as a child. What is your heritage and how does that inform some of the style choices you make? I’m Southern African, but born in Zimbabwe, we are originally of the Zulu people, however our family moved from South Africa to Zimbabwe. I claim being Zimbabwean because I was born there and I did live there for quite a long time. But if you delve further, my family originates in South Africa.

TGW: So does your sense of style meld with not only your existence in Melbourne but back to your heritage? The vibrant prints and the joyous dancing? I think because I’m part of a people who are always trying to be silenced…I’m very well aware that I am a black female, and I am an African…a lot of the things I do reflect on that, because sometimes I don’t have the strength to speak up about matters that are happening in the world, because it takes a lot out of you to be speaking about it all your life. Instead I try to express black joy, and that is translated when I’m working on shoots. I’m still happy, I’m dancing, and that’s from our culture. We are people who dance. I won’t ever tone that down. You might find me at a corporate shoot and I’m still myself, and they know that when they book me. I think it’s just an understood thing that I’m just going to come and I’m going to be myself, and I’m never going to change that. I didn’t realise that was something that is hard for a lot of people, but as I’ve grown up I realise that that’s the thing that people comment the most on, that they’re shocked that I’m able to just be myself. And I’m like, of course, who else am I gonna be?

TGW: That’s where the talent comes into it, because if you live in a world surrounded by all those larger than life, expressive characters, you don’t realise that for the ordinary person, expression with style can be quite tough. Some people wouldn’t dare to wear certain things but they can find joy in what you do, because it’s so different to what they are used to.

Now I’m borrowing from something my sister asked me recently – if you had to name three things that define your sense of style, what would they be?

1. Bedazzled Embellishments

NM: Because once something is embellished and bedazzled, I am all for it.

TGW: It’s ALIVE!

NM: Yeah! And I think that honestly comes from growing up in poverty. Prior to this, our life in Zimbabwe was very simple. Once I grew up and was working and I could now afford finer things… not even finer things…because I will always break the fashion rules and go for something that is highly stylised OTT over high end luxe. I still love it and I’m all for it.

Once something is embellished and bedazzled, I am all for it.

TGW: Like choosing SHAG over Gucci?

NM: Exactly. And I think that comes from that background of poverty. That’s why I love metallic golds and things that sparkle. But I also draw inspiration from hip hop and rap culture. But when you break it down, it’s the same story, because a lot of those artists have come from the hood, they have this big come up and get money, so they go crazy with the jewels, because they didn’t have it before.

TGW: Yeah, and the gold chains…

NM: Exactly. Gold chains, big fur pieces, and I’m like Yes! Live your life.

Gold chains, big fur pieces, and I’m like Yes! Live your life.

2. Wearing All White

I love colour, but I also love just wearing white. I think white gives me this elegance and boss like feel. I love anything fresh, crisp and white. It’s definitely a go to.

I think white gives me this elegance and boss like feel. I love anything fresh, crisp and white.

3. Statement Jackets

NM: Statement jackets are just an obsession. There’s something so strong and powerful about them. You add a statement jacket and it just makes everything amazing.

TGW: Yes, especially when it’s one of your personal favourites. It doesn’t matter how terrible you’re feeling, emotional, whatever, you put on your rock star jacket and it’s like a cloak of courage.

Ntombi Moyo is a contributing Melbourne stylist to the Fashion Redux exhibition at Melbourne Museum from 1 March – 31 March, 2019. Entry to the exhibit is free with Museum entry. For more information, please visit the Melbourne Museum website.

Made possible with VAMFF’s Fashion Film Award, Fashion Redux visitors will also be treated to screenings of this year’s award-winning selections, including new works from up-and-coming and established filmmakers working with Prada, Gucci and local Melbourne designers.

All images courtesy Melbourne Museum.

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