Eden Hore: High Fashion/High Country exhibition to open at The Dowse

Eden Hore exhibition

Lurex evening gown by Vinka Lucas photographed at the Poolburn Dam, 2019. Image by Derek Henderson.

The fascinating story and fashion collection of visionary Kiwi farmer, Eden Hore, who collected more than 200 couture gowns in 1970s Aotearoa, has been turned into a new exhibition that opens at The Dowse this Friday 4th December.

Featuring some incredibly glamourous vintage gowns from some of New Zealand’s most talented designers like Vinka Lucas and Kevin Berkahn, the exhibition showcases the best of Eden Hore’s prized fashion collection. The high country farmer from Naseby, Central Otago, was nationally admired for his farming prowess, but he was also a collector of colourful couture, amassing an impressive collection of high fashion garments by designers who too sought escape from the everyday drabness of 1970s New Zealand.

The exhibition Eden Hore: High Fashion/High Country brings together some of Eden Hore’s most glamourous gowns with new imagery, shot in stunning Central Otago landscapes, by celebrated fashion photographer Derek Henderson and expat Kiwi stylist Megha Kapoor (recently appointed as Content Director of Vogue India).

For the first time since the late 1980s, Eden Hore’s colourful collection will be presented in a stand-alone exhibition in a partnership between The Dowse and Central Otago District Council. The free fashion exhibition is expected to be a huge draw card on the summer events calendar for the Wellington region.

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,” says Chelsea. “I like to imagine it will be like watching a sheep shearing competition at the Met Gala – all about beautiful and compelling contradictions.”

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,” says Claire. “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.”

Celebrated photographer Derek Henderson was commissioned to photograph a selection of the garments in 2019, utilising Central Otago’s stunning landscape as a backdrop. The shoot was styled by international stylist and fashion editor Megha Kapoor and modelled by Sydney-based model Hannah Clark.

“The photographs propel the garments into the 21st century, to be viewed afresh,” says Claire Regnault.

Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry is excited for The Dowse to host the exhibition, and says it’s all the more reason to get out to Lower Hutt this summer, “The Eden Hore Central Otago collection and Derek Henderson’s photographs perfectly highlight the contrast between our top fashion and classic environment. However, it’s that juxtaposition that makes it all the more interesting, and I encourage everyone in the region to come and check it out when it’s on display,” he adds.

Eden Hore: High Fashion/High Country is created in partnership with Central Otago District Council and with support from Te Papa. It’s presented as part of the New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2022 programme. The Eden Hore Central Otago collection is on loan from the Central Otago District Council. The Council purchased the garments in 2013 recognising it is an important part of the cultural and historic fabric of Central Otago.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan says he is looking forward to returning to The Dowse for the opening of the exhibition, “Since becoming Mayor, I have fallen in love with the story of Eden Hore, the most unlikely of fashionistas, and the collection itself. I look forward to seeing Derek Henderson’s incredible photographs of some of these priceless garments in the unique Central Otago countryside, displayed in one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s great art spaces,” he adds.

The Eden Hore: High Fashion/High Country exhibition is on at The Dowse from 4 December 2021 until 20 March 2022, as part of The Dowse’s 50th Anniversary programme.

Eden Hore exhibition

Kevin Berkahn evening dress and cape photographed at Bannockburn Sluicings, Central Otago, 2019.

Images by Derek Henderson.