It’s not often that shoppers on Paddington’s Glenmore Road would spot a koala among the gum leaves, but that is exactly the case this week at Five Ways fashion boutique Parlour X. The reason for the marsupial migration: the in-store launch of Jenny Kee’s knitwear collection, A New Beginning.
In support of Australian Wool Week, Sydney-based designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales of Romance Was Born have been enlisted to transform the shop window. The close friends of Kee share her love of Australian flora and fauna, hence a gumtree canopy by paper artist Benja Harney, woolly knitted critters from Bendigo, and crochet leaves by Sales’ mum Janelle. In the frame, some of Kee’s most iconic designs, including the Blinky Sweater, first worn by Princess Diana in 1982, and the Jenny Kee Jacket that shielded her small daughter in the Granville train crash of 1977.
“They’ve been brought back to life in a completely new way,” says Kee, who joined forces with The Woolmark Company to reissue some of her favourite knits for a new generation, using Merino wool milled in Italy by Zegna Baruffa (“It’s the most beautiful wool I could ever have dreamed of having”) and digital knitting techniques in China. “It’s been a hard journey for me in a sense, because I used to do hand-knitting and I was very cottage industry, so at this time in my life, 2015 not 1974, it was a big, big leap.”
Hanging between pieces from international luxury labels like Valentino and Balenciaga, the resulting limited-edition knitwear, although lighter in weight than it once was, sings with the originality and spirit of the store where it all began back in the ’70s, Flamingo Park. “It feels like they’re works of art,” says Parlour X owner Eva Galambos, who hosted an event last week to honour Kee and support the global Campaign For Wool. “Jenny Kee, to me, is such an icon and such a professional. It was fitting for us to be able to represent her in this way.”
A big fan of Kee’s vintage sweaters, Sales, who favours the Oz Collage Jacket that Kee describes as a “potpourri of everything Australian,” is excited to think the knitwear will endure for a fresh audience. “As corny as it sounds, it’s about the beauty of nature, and that doesn’t go out of style.”