Changing styles of pop princess Kylie

EMMA LEE Kylie Minogue’s career has taken her from tomboyish girl-next-door to pop diva. Her style icon status is the focus of a major exhibition at one of the country’s most prestigious art galleries, which opens today. EMMA LEE looks at what’s in store.

EMMA LEE

It was the romance that had the nation hooked. Tomboy mechanic Charlene Mitchell and heart-throb Scott Robinson were Ramsay Street's very own star-crossed lovers. And it was thanks to the soap opera Neighbours that the young actors that played them, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, became household names.

But who would have thought that 20 years on from when millions of teenage girls sobbed as Charlene and Scott made it down the aisle, one of them would be an icon - a multi-million record selling superstar with a whole exhibition dedicated to them at the V&A in London.

Kylie - The Exhibition opens today and it follows how her image has changed since 1998 - from Charlene's overalls, to the tiny gold hotpants she wore in her 2000 Spinning Around video. to the white hooded jumpsuit she wore for the Can't Get You Out Of My Head promo.

It's a fascinating snapshot of the 38-year-old star's career. There are around 200 exhibits, and as well as 45 costumes, there will be 60 photographs and a look backstage where visitors can see sketchbooks, designs and video footage showing preparations for a Kylie tour.

Kylie, who is newly single after splitting with French actor Olivier Martinez, wowed the crowd at Tuesday's launch, wearing a suitably stunning purple Dolce and Gabbana gown, accessorised by diamonds reputed to be worth £1m.

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The exhibition originated at the Arts Centre in Kylie's home city of Melbourne and highlights her collaborations with leading designers, including Dolce and Gabbana, who created the complete wardrobe for the KylieFever 2002 tour, and Julien Macdonald who designed the crystal-encrusted wardrobe for the On A Night Like This 2000 tour, as well as designers such as Helmut Lang and Monolo Blahnik.

It will also feature costumes Kylie has created herself in collaboration with William Baker, her London-based creative director and stylist, such as the pink Dancing Queen outfit she wore for the Intimate And Live tour in 1988.

The exhibition was shown in four venues in Australia last year, in Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney, attracting 500,000 visitors. After London it will visit Manchester Art Gallery and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

Exhibition producer Vicki Broackes says the display is as much about Kylie the performer as Kylie the clothes horse. “We look at the fashion but we look at it from the point of view of an iconic performer who's evolved over all these years... You see a character who is not afraid to take risks.”

The key to Kylie's image, Broackes says, is “experimentation' - showgirl feathers one minute, understated French chic the next. “I think there's not one 'Kylie' look,' she says. “I think she's tried many looks and you can really see that...

“She doesn't take herself too seriously and she's a fantastic entertainer. It's got to be fun and it is.'

Kylie was born in May 1968 to Ron and Carol Minogue - she has a younger sister Dannii, also a singer, and a brother, Brendan, who is a news cameraman.

Both Kylie and Dannii were child actresses. From the age of 11, Kylie appeared in TV shows including The Sullivans, Skyways and The Henderson Kids. Dannii, who regularly appeared on the children's show Young Talent Time, was the more famous of the siblings until Kylie won the role of Charlene. Her music career began when she performed a cover version of The Loco-Motion at a fundraising concert.

She was signed up by Mushroom records and the single version of the track was number one in Australia for seven weeks.

Kylie then hooked up with the London-based songwriting trio Stock Aiken and Waterman, who were a major music industry force in the late 80s and 90s, and scored a string of hits, including I Should Be So Lucky. She left Neighbours to sing full-time and the hits kept coming - including Especially for You, a schmaltzy duet with her erstwhile co-star Jason Donovan.

Critics initially dismissed her as the “singing budgie”, but she's the only pop star apart from Madonna to have had a number one single in the 80s, 90s and the 2000s. In the early 90s she went through a rebellious phase. Shaking off her squeaky clean girl-next-door image, a new grown-up, raunchy Kylie emerged - and it was at around this time she was romantically involved with bad-boy INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, who declared that “corrupting Kylie” was his favourite hobby.

In 1992, her contract with Stock Aiken and Waterman ended and they parted company. She signed to the credible dance music label Deconstruction, and released sophisticated grown-up pop-dance tracks like Confide In Me.

In 1995, she formed an unlikely double act with fellow Australian Nick Cave for the haunting track Where The Wild Roses Grow. The mid-90s was a period of musical experimentation for her - she collaborated with producer Towa Tei and James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers. In 1999, she moved from Deconstruction to Parlophone and her first single for the label, Spinning Around, helped along by the accompanying video in which she wore the aforementioned gold hotpants, was her first UK number one in 10 years.

The album it was taken from, Light Years, also included collaborations with Robbie Williams and his then writing partner, Guy Chambers.

But it wasn't until 2001 that she enjoyed the biggest success of her career - Can't Get You Out Of My Head, a track co-written by Norwich-born Cathy Dennis which had reportedly been turned down by Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who was launching her own solo career. Her most recent album of original recordings, Body Language, was released in 2003.

Despite concentrating on music, she didn't abandon acting completely. Her film roles have included The Delinquents and Street Fighter. She also had a cameo as Absinthe the Green Fairy in Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! and voiced the character of Florence in a film version of The Magic Roundabout.

In May 2005 Kylie was diagnosed with breast cancer, forcing her to cancel her Showgirl tour and a headline slot at Glastonbury to receive treatment.

She largely stayed out of the public eye until November when she resumed her tour in Australia.

Speaking about the exhibition, Kylie says: “The V&A is renowned for its superb fashion and performance collections and there isn't a better place for this exhibition to be launched in the UK.

“I feel honoured to have such an important part of my career, and something so personal to me, being recognised in this way.”

t Kylie - The Exhibition is at the V&A until June 10. The show is sponsored by Evian, allowing the gallery to fulfil Kylie's wish that admission to the exhibition should be free. Timed tickets will be in operation. Advance booking is strongly recommended and tickets are available now. They can be booked in person at the V&A in advance or on the day of visit.

t Up to four tickets per household can be booked online, but only more than 48 hours before the visit. There is a booking fee of £2 per transaction. Visit www.vam.ac.uk/kylie

t A book, called Kylie, is published by V&A publications in association with the Arts Centre, Melbourne, to accompany the exhibition. It includes a preface by Kylie and an introduction by William Baker. It's available at the V&A in paperback at £19.99 and as a special edition hardback at £35.

t For further details about Melbourne Arts Centre's Kylie Collection visit www.theartscentre.net. au/kylie

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