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Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival – Brisbane 2015

by | Event Reviews, Wisdom


Ms Chevron

George Wu

It’s that time of the year where people step out all dolled up to take part in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. This mumma exchanged her nappy bag for a clutch, reunited with her hair curler and tried to remember how to walk in sky-high heels. Whilst I went along to see – rather than be seen – I mentally prided myself for putting in some effort as I was led to a seat positioned in the very centre of the room. Intimidating? Yes. But a great vantage point? There could be none better.

The QC Club Bridal Group Show took place in the John Reid Pavilion at the Brisbane Showgrounds. Bridal designers included (in order of appearance) Elizabeth de Varga, Jordanna Regan Couture, Brides Desire by Wendy Sullivan, Alter-Ego Brisbane, Jack Sullivan Bridal, Paul Hunt and George Wu. So without further ado, I bring you a peek into their gorgeous designs and the influences behind them.

Elizabeth de Varga

The latest collection from Elizabeth de Varga Couture Bridal by designer Tammie Nitschke was a tribute to unique fabrics, colours and textures. “I fell in love with the amazing laser cut silk satin the moment I saw it and I knew we had to have it”.

The use of multiple fabrics in one garment to create a complex yet delicate individual piece was the inspiration. Each Elizabeth de Varga piece in the collection was handpicked for its originality and pure design lines. Every garment was tied by fabric or colour or texture to create a truly unique collection.

“I love to create individual looks and pieces for the modern bride who loves fashion and has a real sense of style. And this collection was an intense expression of that – don’t be afraid to be individual and have what you want on your wedding day”.

Jordanna Regan Couture

Jordanna says “I drew inspiration from middle eastern influences and fused this with vintage design. Jordanna Regan Couture gowns are unique, elegant and feminine. We use the finest of fabrics and laces from around the world to create unique gowns of prominent pattern and exceptional detail. We achieve this through the carefully infusion of strong texture and intricate detail”.

Brides Desire by Wendy Sullivan

Wendy describes her collection as “vintage romance showcasing the subtle use of two-tone layering in exquisite laces, sequinned tulles and softly flowing chiffons and silks. Silhouettes feature slim fit fishtails, softly falling waisted skirts with feature strapless bodices and magnificent full-skirted fairy tale gowns with intricate multi toned lace appliqués”.

Alter-Ego Brisbane

Daniel Moore of Alter-Ego Brisbane says they “wanted to create a collection that was modern and on trend with a new look for brides”. Supplementing their made to measure service, they commenced work on their ready to wear collection months ago. Fitted silhouettes were the highlight with a few fuller skirts making an appearance.

“I love fabrics that are textured and wanted to use fabrics with a strong look… we used heavy silk satins on bias, soft silks, heavy beading laces, border laces and cotton laces from Europe.

“I think we would appeal to a modern bride looking for something different and unique. We like working with the figure to flatter the individual body shape and make a bride feel amazing. It’s really important to us that the bride wears the dress (not the other way around). You can wear any dress if you feel amazing in it, but no outfit is complete without a smile.”

Jack Sullivan Bridal

Jack made an appearance for the second year at MBFF stating his “latest collection is all about laces, with textured embellishments adding the detail. This was done through the use of three-dimensional laces and bold guipure laces. Don’t get me wrong – there is still plenty of sparkle through some subtle transparent sequins that catch the light for just a fraction of a second”.

Paul Hunt

Paul says that “the inspiration for this year’s collection was to give brides a little taste of something fresh. I loved using a little colour in the collection. Not all brides want to wear white – the sea mint skirt is perfect for a beachside wedding and the butterfly print is perfect for countryside soirée. The beautiful all over flower embroidered gown is sheer and dreamy, and the black velvet ribboned waistline gives it a modern twist on a soft traditional gown”.

George Wu

Having been to George’s couture laboratory, I was looking forward to seeing his finished pieces grace the catwalk. He says his collection is based on “the Roman’s influence depicted in the Bible – the look is about the textures of the Roman’s artwork in their ancient architecture. The look is regal, effortless, draped and light. The collection also has studding details for a little glamour with an edgy mood. Fabrics like French laces, tulle, silk faille and silk organza form a small part of the couture design – workmanship is the major part in this magical and romantic collection with each gown requiring a minimum of 100 hours from pattern drafting all the way to the finished product.”

Images via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane

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Ms Chinoiserie Says: Undoubtedly the most fashionable event in town – what a wonderful celebration of Australian design!

Behind the Door With…….Mariana Hardwick

by | Behind The Door With ..., Wisdom


Amelia Waddell Of Make Your Day Wedding Styling
Find me on Ms Polka Dot's Directory


Finding the perfect dress is often the first and most exciting part of the wedding planning process and this week for ‘Behind the Door With…’  I’m taking you behind the scenes at Mariana Hardwick’s flagship store in Brunswick. You can’t really miss the giant letters spelling out “Hardwick Building” as you drive past on bustling Sydney Road, a hint at the grandeur and history I find inside.


The name Mariana Hardwick has been synonymous with luxury wedding couture for many years now and it’s a delight to be shown around by Ellen, one of Mariana Hardwick’s design team. The team is also made up of Rebekah Hardwick (Mariana’s daughter in law and now head of the company) and Mariana’s own daughter Clara. Ellen explains that the team strive to design dresses that are different from the norm, a little rebellious even, and they try to reflect that in the large window displays at the front of the store. Indeed I get a sense straight away that for their customers this is more than just a dress shop, it’s an art gallery and an inspiration!


The building’s namesake Mariana Hardwick bought the old warehouse over ten years ago and converted it into a bridal salon complete with reception area, six luxurious fitting spaces, workroom, offices and multiple client meeting spaces.  There are high ceilings, lots of natural light; original floorboards and industrial beams that make the space feel almost a little ethereal.  There’s a faint smell of sweet perfume and soft music playing that completes the dreamy atmosphere. Rebekah tells me that the space was not without its challenges. “It is an old building and has its quirks – noise travels especially with the upstairs floorboards but it adds to the ambience – being able to hear the machines going and the workroom buzzing from downstairs is actually lovely” she says.


Downstairs, brides are greeted in the light filled reception space and then escorted into the showroom to admire and try on dresses to their heart’s content.  There are many glittering cabinets filled with veils, accessories and headpieces to complete the look. After the bride has selected her dress, it is created from scratch in the workroom upstairs before her first fitting. How amazing that Mariana Hardwick are still making all their dresses on site, it must be such a treat for brides to have something made to measure!


Ellen shows me the “finishing department” where beads, embellishments and lace are being hand sewn onto dresses and the “archives” where samples are kept of special and popular gowns.  There’s some giant cutting tables and the whir of sewing machines in the workroom and I’m surprised at how calm everyone seems amongst the busy work to be done; they clearly take a lot of pride in what they do.



Downstairs again and Ellen explains to me that the giant staircase makes a great backdrop for collection launches and catwalk parades that are often held in the store. Sometimes the space even becomes its own mini expo with local businesses such as Babylon Flowers putting together floral displays and Jessicakes giving out yummy cake samples to excited brides to be. Rebekah says “We have done many of our photo shoots in and around the building – the dramatic windows and amazing light are just perfect”.


Photos by Nick Blair

Such an amazing building is meant to be shared and Ellen is excited about a new upstairs space for other creative businesses to rent. They already have plans for photographers and a modelling agency to move in which will surely come in handy.  The Hardwick Building certainly is the heart of Sydney Road’s bridal showcase and is such an enchanting experience to visit.


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Ms Chinoiserie Says: What a amazing and special look at such an iconic wedding gown couturier; such a wonderful sense of history!

About Amelia Waddell of Make Your Day Wedding Styling: I’m a wedding stylist and proud store owner who loves to chat weddings with everyone and anyone! I love to talk shop with other business owners (particularly over some chocolate cake!) and am the first to try and have a sticky beak behind the scenes of any event. My free time is spent ‘investigating’ new cafes, stores and events.

What Would They Know? Laura Lown of Milk The Cow Licensed Fromagerie

by | Food & Catering Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom


Polka Dot Bride

Milk The Cow Licensed Fromagerie

Good cheese and good wine have always gone hand in hand to celebrate a special occasion. So when you have artisan cheeses paired with any sort of alcohol your heart desires, then it’s a match made in cheese lovers heaven! As this concept has moved into weddings we’ve fallen for cheese towers to replace wedding cakes, or a cheese grazing table to replace a dessert table. Laura of Milk The Cow Licensed Fromagerie will be able help you with her vast knowledge of what’s on offer. The biggest problem you will have, will be which cheeses to choose!

What was your introduction to the world of cheese and what do you love about your profession?

I started my career by studying fashion photography, of all things. Back in London, I took up a part time job in a cheese shop and they let me rearrange and merchandise the cheese counter – my eye for fashion and design helped, and pretty soon I worked out that people eat with their eyes first.
From there, I started to fall in love with all the stories behind the cheeses. My employers sent me on a specialist cheese course and there was no turning back!
I went to work for one of the UK’s most prestigious cheese shops, Paxton & Whitfield and then on a whim I decided I would come out to Australia to travel.
I arrived in St Kilda to live, knowing there probably wasn’t too much in the way of cheese jobs in Oz but then I saw an ad for Milk the Cow pretty much as soon as I got here. Fate.

Where is Milk the Cow located?

We have two fromageries – our original opened in 2012 in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda and then late 2014 we opened our Carlton venue in Lygon Street – which means you’re never too far from cheese wherever you are in Melbourne!

Milk The Cow  cheese tower 3

In practical terms what does the description of Milk the Cow as ‘Melbourne’s first late night licensed cheese shop’ mean?

In practical terms, it means that whenever you have a craving for artisan cheese and boutique wine, you can head to one of our venues pretty much anytime of the day or night and we’ll be waiting! Of course, we don’t just serve wine, we also love to match our cheeses with cocktails, cider, ports, beer and even sake.

What sorts of functions do you have at Milk The Cow?

We cater for intimate Hen Parties, gentlemanly Bull Nights as well as birthday and engagement celebrations. We have some lovely packages available that make use of our communal tables, and with the opening of Carlton we now have a private event space that can cater for up to 50 guests.
We can also provide gorgeous styled grazing tables and celebration cheese towers, or takeaway cheese for offsite events so guests can enjoy a little piece of Milk the Cow even if they’re celebrating at home or at another venue.

Cheese flights – what are these, and would you describe your favourites? Would this concept be suitable to serve at a wedding?

One of our much loved pastimes is pairing our cheeses with all manner of boutique booze. To that end, you’ll find a great array of cheese flights on our menu – four cheeses matched to four different wines, beers, ciders, sakes or whiskies, depending on your personal preference. These change weekly and allow our cheesemongers to pair plenty of new and exciting cheeses to compliment our growing beverage list.
These are more suited to an intimate group setting like a Hen Party or a Bull Party, and are included in our event packages.
For a wedding, our customized Cheese Towers or Grazing Stations are guaranteed to offer a fabulous wow factor and are more suited to the occasion.

Milk The Cow cheese tower 2

Cheese garnished cocktails – why and how did you come up with this concept? Do you have a favourite?

Our fascination with cheese and booze went to a new level here, our handcrafted signature cocktails come garnished with a wedge of perfectly matched cheese, almost too beautiful to drink!
My personal favourite would be Milk the Corn – Truffle honey and cereal-infused milk with a good splash of King’s Ginger and Remy VSOP Cognac, garnished with Wyngaard goat cheese from the Netherlands.

Could they be offered for post ceremony or reception drinks? How would a couple go about organizing this? Is a bridal couple able to approach you to create a signature cocktail and matching cheese for them?

We can certainly offer any of our signature Milk the Cow items to be served at your Celebrations, as well as make a bespoke beverage to truly replicate the lucky couple! Our staff are also able to be onsite to talk cheese and offer guidance to your guests with interesting stories of our delicious fromage.

Milk The Cow Cheese tower1

How do couples go about choosing cheeses for a cheese tower? Are there any ‘rules’ (in choosing the cheeses to use)? Do you offer tastings for bridal couples to help them make the selection, and give them advice on the alcohol to serve with each cheese?

Milk the Cow likes to give our brides and grooms specialised attention therefore we have set aside Wedding Tower Consultation appointments which allow you to discuss your specific requirements – themes, favourite cheeses, stylings – and be inspired by all things cheese, and of course this include tastings!
Our towers can be as grand or petite as you need, and we can match most colour briefs – from all whites to autumnal colours to blues and greys, you’d be surprised at the variety we can accomplish! Most people will have their florist add flowers to the cheese towers to really tie it in with the styling.
There are no rules for how to go about choosing your cheeses. Some couples go with their favourite cheeses, others give a nod to their family heritage or spiritual homes by choosing cheeses from different corners of the world, or you can simply leave it up to our cheesemongers to
We can certainly create the ultimate complimentary beverage listing to match your statement tower.

Milk The Cow A

Can you suggest and provide accompaniments to serve with the cheese tower?

We love our homemade lavosh and freshly baked breads with our cheese. As for other accompaniments, you can’t go wrong with Spanish quince paste, muscatel clusters and truffle honey to pair with any artisan cheese.

Are you able to organize the delivery and set up of the cheese tower at a wedding?

We do include the option of delivery with any order from Milk the Cow.

Snacks are often offered to guests before they leave the reception. Can you suggest a cheesy snack suitable for this?

Our mentioned Grazing station would be the perfect night-time snack at a Reception or, we have featured some of our beautiful cheeses as bonbonierre – mini wheels of artisan cheeses and some shards of our housemade lavosh are perfect for this.

Milk The Cow Cheese Tower 4

What have you discovered about the Melbourne food scene that you really enjoy?

With such a talented and ever-growing array of amazing chefs, we are truly inspired by their passion and willingness to experiment with cheese.
We are fortunate to work with a number of Melbourne’s best chefs who feature as part of our month Chefs at the Cow series. This year alone we welcome Christy Tania from Om Nom, Daniel Wilson from Huxtaburger and Huxtable, Ashly Hicks from Circa the Prince and Peter Gunn from IDES and Attica. They come into Milk the Cow and meet with me – play in our 5-metre long cabinet – to find and then create a four course cheese inspired menu with my favourite ingredient – cheese!

Thank you Laura for sharing your story with us. For more information about Milk The Cow licensed Fromagerie visit the website.

Images supplied by Milk The Cow Licensed Fromagerie.

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