History and Fashion Unite at South West Fashion Festival

The South West Fashion Festival celebrated its fifth birthday in style over the weekend, bringing a selection of stunning fashion events to Bunbury that were bigger and better than ever before.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the Saturday morning brunch at Casellas Restaurant, where upwards of 60 ladies dined in style while feasting their eyes on incredible pieces from the Darnell Collection.

This is the third year that Charlotte Smith has bought an excerpt of her world-renowned collection to Bunbury to feature in the South West Fashion Festival. This year, she selected pieces to fit in with the SWFF’s theme of ‘Futurism’, an interesting and challenging theme given that almost all of the Darnell Collection is vintage or antique. IMG_8374

While guests sipped sparkling and indulged in an array of delicious treats, Charlotte spoke about the history of the Darnell Collection. She inherited the collection in 2004 from her godmother Doris Darnell, who had been collecting vintage and antique clothing and accessories since 1936.

The Darnell Collection currently features over 8000 pieces, with the earliest piece, a night bonnet from Scotland, dating back to the 1720’s. It was easy to feel Charlotte’s passion for what has become her entire life – she currently travels the globe exhibiting pieces from the collection and has written several books.


Seven unique and ‘futuristic’ pieces were modelled, as Charlotte gave the back-story and history of each. One of the most fascinating stories was the one behind the gold lame kimono-style dress pictured above.

This 1970’s dress was worn by Australian mezzo-soprano singer Margreta Elkins, and was given to the Darnell Collection by Margreta’s husband Henry after she passed away in 2009. Charlotte told a touching story of the friendship she developed via email with Henry, who continued to donate many items from Margreta’s wardrobe to the Darnell Collection over the years.

What is also fascinating about this dress is the designer it was created by – Danica of Double Bay. As Charlotte explained, there is absolutely no information about this designer or boutique anywhere online, leading her to think that perhaps the designer simply created these one-off pieces for Margreta Elkins.


It is these stories that demonstrated Charlotte’s love of fashion and its importance in recording and reflecting history. As she explained, fashion is so much more than the frivolous notion that many people see it as. Each piece captures the society and culture that it comes from, and allows future generations a fascinating insight into the past.

The Darnell Collection as a whole represents so many different moments in fashion, some moments which we were privileged to hear about during a gorgeous brunch as part of the South West Fashion Festival weekend.


Charlotte White (right), owner and curator of the Darnell Collection with model wearing the Danica of Double Bay silk and lame dress


One Response to History and Fashion Unite at South West Fashion Festival

  • Kassa says:

    This event was enthralling, captivating and so much FUN. Charlotte was entertaining and enthusiastic. I could have sat there all day and listened to her story and the clothes story. The food was moorish. I could not fault one thing about this brunch.

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