Jinoel - Melbourne Fashion House
On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the retrospective celebration of the Jinoel fashion label at Como House mansion in Melbourne. Jinoel is an Australian fashion house active from the late 1950s through to the mid 1980s.
Melbourne fashion historian, Tom McEvoy, organised the event to bring recognition of the label to the modern generation. Jinoel was the business of husband and wife team Jill and Noel Kemelfield. Jill was there today to tell her story and it was wonderful to hear so many of her anecdotes first hand.
Really, this was just like an episode of "This is Your Life". Tom has done similar retrospectives before for Elvie Hill and for the label Mr Simon, although Simon Shinberg died in 2012, so it was more of a tribute to his achievements. Elvie Hill was in her late 90s when Tom organised her show and it was wonderful to see the look on her face as she received the accolades of the presenters and the evident appreciation of the audience. On Saturday, Jill Kemelfield was centre stage at Como House.
"No-one will come", Jill told Tom when he organised the retrospective at Como. The event was sold out and even standing room only tickets were sold. What I loved about the show was that Jill told her own story, with humour and frankness.
Jill's early working years were spent learning piece work machining, then cutting and dressmaking for labels such as Trevola, and Douglas Cox, who had the licence to reproduce Dior outfits in Australia in the 1950s, even before Sydney label House of Youth.
In the mid 1950s Jill went to Zurich where she worked for the Marty label there and learnt couture techniques. She described alighting from the plane in Zurich wearing a tent coat and stilettos - "Nobody told me about the snow," she said. "It's hard to look elegant when you have wet feet." I wish you could have seen the look on her face as she said this.
Jill & Noel Kemelfield - Jinoel
She returned to Melbourne and married Noel Kemelfield in 1957 in a dress which she designed on the night they first met.
Jill's going away outfit from her wedding in 1957. It was a surprise for her to see it out and paraded. She designed it and it is made from Dior fabric.
Together Jill and Noel created Jinoel. Jill was the creative force and Noel was the business brain. Tom has managed to find so many Jinoel gowns, which were modeled by his bevy of young women, always eager to get to wear such beautiful gowns and parade them in public. It amazes me that, as with Elvie Hill, the designer remembered so many of these gowns. Although as Jill said, she would design one in black, with sleeves, for example, then it would be made in six colors, and have long or short or no sleeves and countless other variations, many of which she never saw.
As Jill spoke and the models paraded the gowns, photos, news articles and family movies were projected on the wall behind them. It was a deeply personal tribute, and included romantic movie footage from Jill's honeymoon, which was delightful. You can view Tom's edit of Jill's home movie highlights here: The people behind Jinoel
Georgia wearing a 1950s Jinoel gown
Elissa in '60s Jinoel
And, below, in the "Crumb catcher"
Holly the sophisticate
Jill commented that the name Jinoel was not as well known at the time as some others because they often supplied to stores who put their own label on the garments.
Jill's Gown of the Year, 1968
Jill won Gown of the Year in 1968, and the Australian Wool Board award for best gown in 1969, yet she makes little of it. Her daughter, Sue Feldy, remarked of her self effacing mother - that as children "We thought everyone's mum made up clothes".
In the 1970s the Kemelfields started the Marti label, a more affordable and to quote Jill, "more wearable" fashion line. They also started the label Marteen, aimed at the youth market.
Lauren looking amazing in this Marti dress from Louisa Amelia Jane Vintage
The Kemelfields' youth label.
Sweet and pretty Marteen dress from Louisa Amelia Jane Vintage. Jill thought this was probably a dress from the teen line they did briefly - aimed at 14-16 year olds.
Two things Jill said have stuck in my mind. Firstly, that people used to dress up to go out, and it was a big thing to plan for the events on one's social calendar. She actually said "Women used to look nice" (Subtext - not like today - bleeeergh).
Secondly, she implored the audience to "Use your hands, make things, knit, sew, create", and she lamented the lack of handiwork skills of many/most today. I'm doing my bit, Jill, and both of my daughters knit, sew and crochet, so I'm passing it on.
Thanks again to Tom for his research and for bringing back the greats of Australian fashion. A big thank you too to all the models for their wonderful work.