Behind the Art Gallery of South Australia, art conservators have been hard at work preparing tailor-made mannequins for a much-anticipated exhibition of fashion couture.
Paolo Sebastian: X has opened at the gallery, profiling works from the label launched by Adelaide designer Paul Vasileff.
But it would not be possible without the work of Artlab technicians, hidden away in a discrete building.
"If you don't notice what we've done, then we've done a really good job," conservator Mary-Anne Gooden said.
The collection's principal conservator, Kristin Phillips, said it took 16 hours to prepare each outfitted mannequin for the exhibition, including two hours on each arm alone.
"These dresses are fabulous because they have that translucent fabric, but it doesn't work very well when you have a mannequin," she said.
"We had to make an arm that looked like it filled the dress but didn't look solid."
Other mannequins had to be completely re-made with appropriate sizes and colours.
"We had to make a flesh-covered tube to cover the bottom of the mannequin, because it usually stops below the thigh and you can see it under the dress," Ms Phillips said.
"When you come and look at the dress, you're blown away by it and shouldn't notice the mannequin at all."
The pieces, which cost up to $30,000 and have up to 200 metres of tulle — a fine material used in dress-making — are fitted to the mannequins by three people.
"You have to get the shape right … it has to look good from all dimensions," Ms Phillips said.
Gallery takes an interest in contemporary fashion scene
The Art Gallery of South Australia's decorative arts curator, Rebecca Evans, said designer Paul Vasileff was among the local talent helping to mature Adelaide's "grassroots" fashion industry.
"We knew Paul was going to jump on a trajectory, and 2017 would be his year, and we wanted to showcase his career now, rather then when he was in his 50s," Ms Evans said.
"He's already doing what no-one else has been able to do in the Australian fashion industry for a very long time, relying only on creating one-off couture pieces and manufacturing here in Adelaide.
"Dressmaking is being revived by Paul and the way he works … we need to capture this moment in time as it happens," Ms Evans said.
Paolo Sebastian's dresses are the first to be incorporated with the gallery's extensive collection of traditional art, and Ms Evans said she wanted to reinvigorate an appreciation of fashion as art.
The gallery has promised to have a greater focus on fashion, long after the exhibition closes in December.
"A fashion show is very dramatic, but goes very quickly, and having a gallery allows people to immerse themselves and see things in greater detail," Ms Evans said.
"It is often criticised for being very fleeting or vain … but for me fashion is art and I wanted to showcase it among the masters."
The Art Gallery of South Australia has selected one piece from Paolo Sebastian's latest collection to put on permanent display, and hopes donations will help fund its purchase.