Style, grace and sophistication with a founding father of Australian fashion, Simon Shinberg.
Always do what you love is a common piece of advice given to people who peruse their passions. Mr Simon says goodbye, a retrospective runway as part of the Melbourne Fashion Festival puts front and centre this advice. The runway shone a spotlight on one of Australia’s forgotten designers. Simon Shinberg brought fashion from Europe to Australian women through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
Designing under the labels Sharene Creations and then Mr Simon, his garments were worn by thousands of women across Australia.
Mr Shinberg, who died in 2012, pioneered the pant suit for women. During a time when wearing a skirt or dress was still considered the only appropriate clothing for women leaving the house. Mr Shinberg travelled Australia with women wearing his designs and attempted to enter restaurants. Faced with adversity, and with a media storm brewing for dressing women in a controversial style. It wasn’t until he made it to Adelaide that the women were aloud to enter a restaurant.
Mr Simon says goodbye, a fitting tribute from a daughter to a father
On Sunday the 5th of March, Mr Shinberg’s daughter Debra Dascal entertained hundreds of guests to showcase her father’s designs through the decades. Debra spent 12 months locating about 140 of her father’s original designs so she could stage the show. Working with Debra on the mission is Australian fashion history enthusiast Tom McEvoy.
“Dad was larger than life” Debra said “but you know when your living in that space, he’s just your Dad. It wasn’t until later that I realised just how lucky I was”. Having access to cutting edge fashion and dresses in the days current trends was a treat for Ms Dascal. “Oh I was very spoilt, and Dad was very generous to my girlfriends too”.
“All of the pieces we found were in such beautiful condition. People really loved Dad’s clothes”
As the search grew for clothes for the retrospective, each piece found added to the stories that people told. “We met with this lovely lady who had never worn the garment. Her husband had told her that it was too fancy for Broken Hill. But she had kept it in the back of her wardrobe because she loved it so much” Debra said “it even had the original tag on it”.
The stories Debra shared continued, but it wasn’t just the older generations that provided garments for the show. When word started to spread about what Tom and Debra were doing women in their 20’s and 30’s got in contact. “It was amazing, each garment we located was like another person that Dad had touched”.
A pioneer in style and a challenger to social norms
Simon Shinberg helped to push what was acceptable for women, in style and in social norms. “He was the first to have an Aboriginal model, as a house model. He was the first to export to China and Japan… Dad was really doing the first for a lot of things”.
A strong family man, Simon Shinberg followed his parents into fashion, who had well established fashion business of their own “Paulinette”. With shops in Howie Court (Melbourne), Chapel Street (Windsor) and Carnegie. On advice from his father, Mr Shinberg took up making dresses. Together they founded a clothing manufacturing business. He was amongst the first to bring Givenchy’s new style “Le Sacque” to Australia, and David Jones sold 8,000 of his Sack dresses in 1958.
With a passion for Australian fashion history, Tom McEvoy partnered with Debra to put on the Mr Simon retrospective. “I was driving in my car and the phone rang, it was Debra on the phone” Mr McEvoy said. “What was so perfect about it was that I had a Mr Simon dress in the car with me. It was a sign, I knew I had to put on this show with Debra”.
His love for vintage designs is apparent as soon as he begins to speak. “When I talk to design students and mention some designers names, I can’t believe they don’t know who some of them are” he said. The hunt for him is about reminding people of Australia’s proud history. He is saddened by the lack of research and recorded history of Australian fashion designers.
“With the Mr Simon show, I knew I could help Debra really showcase her father’s designs and help to ensure the legacy of Australia’s fashion history”.