‘Town meets country’ themed articles are usually about produce, animals and tractors featuring in urban parades, festivals or markets. But Eden Hore: High Fashion/High Country – like the Central Otago farmer himself – is one out of the box.
Eden was a high country farmer from Naseby. Nationally admired for his sheep and beef farming prowess, he also amassed a collection of high fashion garments by designers who too sought escape from the everyday drabness of 1970s New Zealand.
Some of these garments will be on show for three months from December 4 at the Dowse art museum in Lower Hutt. The free-entry New Zealand Festival of the Arts event that is expected to be a huge summer draw card for Wellingtonians and visitors from further afield.
Eden built a collection of 276 couture gowns and other pieces of fashion during the ‘70s and ‘80s, storing them in a former tractor shed, and showing them off in his own on-farm museum that according to a New Zealand Geographic article also featured Jim Beam decanters, steam locomotives with carriages and a range of vintage cars.
According to the 1996 article, published the year before Eden died, he first became interested in high fashion after he hired a housekeeper in the early1960s who also happened to be a part-time model. That interest in fashion developed further after he went to a Miss New Zealand pageant as moral support for his country singer friend John Grenell and ended up being roped into helping backstage. That help ended up being extended to the next four pageants and soon after, he began collecting high fashion.
Eden was reportedly also the first New Zealander to import miniature horses from the USA, and other unusual animals on his farm included bison, Tibetan yaks, peacocks, cockatoos and Himalayan Tahr.
Dr Chelsea Nichols, Senior Curator at The Dowse and co-curator of the exhibition, says that it will celebrate the pursuit of glamour in unexpected places.
“Although it will be filled with some of the most delicious retro dresses I’ve ever seen, this exhibition is about more than fashion—it is about celebrating those who dare to be different and bringing a little bit of Eden’s love of glamour into reach for anyone who craves it.
“I like to imagine it will be like watching a sheep shearing competition at the Met Gala – all about beautiful and compelling contradictions,” she says.
Claire Regnault, Senior Curator NZ Histories & Cultures at Te Papa and co-curator of High Fashion/High Country, says the Eden Hore Central Otago collection includes some of the most flamboyant fashions created in New Zealand during 1970s.
“Eden Hore’s collection offers a joyous riot of colour, pattern and optimism,” she says. “It features designers, such as Kevin Berkahn and Vinkca Lucas, who specialised in extravagant, special occasion garments, designed for women who wanted to be seen.”
“They were designers with big dreams that stretched well-beyond New Zealand’s shores.”
The show at the Dowse brings together some of Eden’s collected garments, as well as imagery of models wearing others in central Otago landscapes captured by renowned photographer Derek Henderson.
The pieces from the Eden Hore Central Otago collection are on loan from the Central Otago District Council, which purchased the garments in 2013 recognising they are an important part of the cultural and historic fabric of Central Otago.