Jenny Kee
Laud Magazine, photographed by Thom Kerr

“Step into Paradise”

Jenny Kee, Australian fashion designer, 1947-present

Jenny Kee, a pioneering and fiercely original fashion designer known for her quirky knits was catapulted to international fame when Princess Diana famously wore her koala jumper to a polo match in 1982. The sweater, a wedding gift from the daughter of New South Wales Premier Neville Wran, was part of a pair (the other featured a kangaroo) given to her and Prince Charles as a wedding gift. After it made international headlines, Australian Women’s Weekly commissioned Kee to publish a pattern so that women everywhere could knit their own. If that wasn’t enough of an endorsement for the designer, a young Karl Lagerfeld used Kee’s Black Opal fabric design for the lining of 65 garments in his very first collection for Chanel in 1983. 

Born in Sydney, Kee’s fashion career was sparked by a trip to London, England at the age of 18, at the height of the 60s, when bold patterns, miniskirts and the Biba dress aesthetic ruled the high street. She also took an interest in London’s famous vintage markets, and brought those influences back to Australia. She and creative partner Linda Jackson, a couturier, opened their Flamingo Park Frock Salon in Sydney’s Strand Arcade in 1973, which remained a fashion institution until closing in 1995. Their collaborative work was bold and colourful and considered couture; Bianca Jagger was a fan. 

Young designers have since paid tribute to the pair’s work, which often referenced Australian nature. In 2019-2020 The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney mounted a retrospective of their designs called Step into Paradise, the phrase that was written above Flamingo Park’s doorway. A documentary film of the same name, featuring stunning archival footage from the 1970s, was released in 2021 at the Sydney Film Festival. Kee’s unusual spherical dress, called Masked Goddess, was featured in the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics. Fittingly, Kee’s 2006 memoir is called A Big Life.


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