Kylie has always loved fashion

It's rare to get a performer to have a real full-line, but Kylie has always loved fashion, despite the fact that she didn't get it right in the old times.

BACK then she would make her own outfit for a red carpet event, and for the first tour, having a minuscule budget, her mum and her nan were enlisted to help with the costumes. It took three weeks on her mum to stitch the sequins one dress alone.

It was her dad, Ron, who in May 2003 first contacted Janine Barrand, manager of collections and research at the Arts Centre in Kylie's hometown of Melbourne, to announce that Kylie wished to donate over 600 costumes and accessories which she had rescued from bin bags, cupboards and lofts all across the globe.

'It is often a significant collection,' said Janine, confirming Kylie's status as a style icon, on the websites for with David Bowie and Madonna (the information Girl hasn't been honoured which has a V&A retrospective).

'Kylie think it is amusing that garments that were thrown on the ground between numbers were suddenly being handled with such reverence by specialists in white gloves.' The exhibition, which Kylie describes as 'everything from cobbled together to couture', is often a tribute to her stylist and artistic director, William Baker. They first met in 1994, when William was doing its job a store assistant at Vivienne Westwood's shop in Conduit Street, London.

They went for coffee and also have been friends from the time. He would be a pop culture junkie and, along with his passion for punk, the London club scene, and friends including milliner Philip Treacy and stylist Isabella Blow, he encouraged Kylie to wear decadently, having an injection of humour.

A big influence was the late Michael Hutchence, who Kylie dated when she was 21. Before Hutchence, she had never oozed sex appeal. Overnight, it seemed, she was dabbling in black latex lingerie wear.

Then came the video for Better The Devil You already know, the very first time she wore her now trademark hot pants, and also the first outfit that signalled her arrival as a style icon.

The greatest designers on earth, including Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, were soon clamouring to do business with her.

The creative process is often a menage a trois involving Kylie, William and also the designer - Kylie wants to throw in buzz words, and tear sheets from the magazine, or a photograph to inspire everyone. Her outfits cherry select punk, the Eighties London club scene, art deco, Warhol and also installments of Dynasty.

What I love concerning the costumes is because they aren't remotely about being cool, or updated, although Kylie made the covers of Pop, ID, Dazed & Confused, and numerous issues of Vogue and Elle.

You learn that Kylie has never taken herself too seriously, preferring to experiment: she was the first one to wear high heel pumps with combat trousers and brought hotpants back into fashion.

The exhibition is unafraid to showcase her mistakes. The hideous Eighties outfits are here: shoulder pads; ra-ra skirts and T-shirt dresses, the Red Or Dead platform shoes she wore to be with her third video.

She would rather unearth new talent, championing in early stages British designers Marios Schwab, Owen Gaster, Gareth Pugh and Roland Mouret, and it has remained loyal to the Australian designers who first dressed her, as well as the more quirky names whose pieces she bought when she first came to London, for instance Stevie Stewart and David Holah of Bodymap.

But her most enduring relationship using a designer has been by investing in Julien Macdonald - his sparkly cobwebs are to Kylie what Jean Paul Gaultier's conical bra and pinstripes were to Madonna.

'Kylie, the bubbles inside the champagne - 100 per cent all woman, wrapped up in a little package which has a big red crystal bow,' says Macdonald.

Kylie's growing confidence in their own body and her looks may be traced across the years. She often describes herself without all the glitter and makeup as 'plain' and, says Baker, is uncomfortable being referred to as a symbol.

Each of the red carpet gowns are on display, including the blue silk fringe dress by Rafael Lopez that just about concealed her chest for meeting Prince Charles at the Royal Variety performance, and the pink silk corset dress by Australian designer Xen-Pardoe Miles for that Sydney Lgbt Carnival. Kylie has a huge gay following and when said: 'I think gay men relate with my primary find it difficult to be authorized.' You soon realise Kylie never wears exactly the same thing twice, or carries a day when she is not bothered, on or off duty.

'There is something genuine about the way she dresses. She's a virtually old-fashioned fashion sense,' William Baker claims. 'Girl across the street crossed with Hollywood siren.'

18.5.11 11:00

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