Today, the highly anticipated romantic adventure Australia, directed by Baz Luhrmann, releases. I had the opportunity to preview the film, in all its romantic glory, as well as to speak with the costume designer, Catherine Martin. We also had a fun fete at the San Francisco Ferragamo store, in honor of Lady Ashley's shoes in the movie — all designed by the Italian fashion house. Two styles of limited-edition shoes were reproduced from the movie and are being sold at Ferragamo stores; 950 were made, and the San Francisco store is selling 120 of them.
There's so much to share, but I was really excited to see this film and speak with Martin. I am a huge Baz fan — I own both Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet — and as you may or may not know, Martin and Baz are married. Call it a cinematic match made in fashion heaven. No wonder the stories Luhrmann tells resonate so well: They are visually and emotionally epic. To hear what Martin had to say about Lady Ashley's wardrobe transformation, her kooky spyglasses (loved these), and the Ferragamo shoes, and to see lots of Australia eye candy, read more.
Can you talk about the transition of Lady Ashley’s wardrobe throughout the movie?
"Baz really focused on Lady Sarah Ashley’s wardrobe and the revealing to the audience of her change. Eighteen months before we starting rolling film we went to Nashville and met with Nicole. Under Baz’s instructions, I had designed and brought a whole bunch of costumes that polarized her before and after. We could explore what worked and what didn’t work. I brought a version of the riding suit, and the arrival costume, to try and find the dynamic of before and after."
So you had to really plan ahead?
"Yes, Baz is very detailed and demands a lot of research and back stories you need to discover and work on. And it takes months; we had a preproduction of about eight months and we were working with 2,000 costumes. That’s how long it takes."
Those kooky glasses Lady Ashley wore cracked me up. Where did you find those? And the mosquito net?
"In the script it said she wears spyglasses. And I said, “What are spy glasses?” There were travel logs written in the period about a woman wearing spyglasses. They were these glasses people wore to protect themselves from flies, which is also why she’s wearing the net. This is a classic design from the period. We made one slight alteration. Originally we thought they would be dark glasses but it was such a shame to not be able to see Nicole’s eyes. We swapped the glass for clear so you could see her reactions, which are so colorful and charming. The first pair were original period glasses we bought off the Internet, they were actually vintage and we had thickened them in our model workshop."
We had an event at the San Francisco Ferragamo store and I know Ferragamo designed the shoes for Nicole's character. How did all that come about?
"Footwear is always very difficult. To me a shoe really makes an outfit. But you have to think about practicality, too. They need to be comfortable. It’s preferable for them to be made to measure. Ferragamo seemed like an obvious partner; they have made shoes for aristocracy, royalty, and movie stars. And they had an enormous archive of shoes. They were groundbreakers and I thought what a great collaboration. It was fantastic — I was able to work with the designers, look back at the archives. And we could make changes and were eventually able to come up with a fantastic wardrobe of shoes for Lady Sarah Ashley."
What about Hugh's rugged shoes?
"Hugh’s were made by R.M. Williams, a traditional Australian bush outfitter. They made all the footwear for the stockmen and Hugh."
We couldn’t actually see the shoes she was wearing with the Chinoiserie red dress. I must know: What shoes was she wearing underneath there?
"Panne velvet sandals, they were a beautiful green gray. We used chagrine, which is stingray leather, which was very fashionable in the 1930s. Ferragamo has done a version of the shoe, in both black and red, as a limited edition. They are absolutely beautiful. From their inception, Ferragamo has always used exotic and textured shoes. There’s also a beautiful pair of Mary Jane’s, we used a wonderful raffia macramé, which was another one of Ferragamo’s signature looks.