Cate Blanchett might have a shiny new Best Actress Academy Award, but it's another Australian, designer Catherine Martin, who's now her country’s most prolific Oscar winner.
Martin won two Oscars for her work on husband Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, taking out the Best Costume Design and Best Production Design categories. That puts her total tally at four, one gong above Orry-Kelly, who won three awards for his design contributions to An American in Paris, Les Girls and Some Like It Hot. Martin had previously won two Oscars for Moulin Rouge in 2002.
Though The Great Gatsby earned mixed reviews from critics, the opulent costumes and hedonistic sets won over even F. Scott Fitzgerald extremists. Miuccia Prada designed 40 background dresses as well as some of Carey Mulligan’s costumes, while Brooks Brothers supplied a further 1,200 in total (some of the party scenes had almost 300 extras outfitted in unique costumes).
The film’s release also coincided with the great Jazz Age revival of Spring 2012. Designers including Gucci and Ralph Lauren found inspiration in the flapper era, and trend reports everywhere added fuel to the roaring 20s fire. Vogue interpreted the trend more literally by giving Mulligan a full Gatsby-themed cover for the May 2013 issue, after a lengthy mutual courtship with Luhrmann (he created all the videos for the Met Costume Institute – now the Anna Wintour Costume Center — 2012 ‘Schiaparelli and Prada’ exhibition, and Mulligan co-chaired the corresponding Met Gala).
In the Best Costumes category, Martin was up against the designers for The Grandmaster, The Invisible Woman, 12 Years a Slave and, most significantly, American Hustle. Fellow Australian designer and top contender Michael Wilkinson, who brought the characters of American Hustle to life with his bold 70s costumes, studied at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art about the same time as Martin.
They might not boast massive star power, but Australian costume designers are having a bigger influence on high street (and high) fashion than anyone might have anticipated.