‘You have nothing to lose but your cultural cringe’

The Museum has recently acquired the first ever issue of POL, a cutting edge magazine which expressed the preoccupations of a generation of Australians. The acquisition is part of a concerted effort by Museum staff to preserve and recount the new lives forged by Holocaust survivors and the contribution they have made to the rich and multicultural fabric of Australian life.

For many Jewish immigrants, the fashion industry offered accessible opportunities for realising a new life, particularly if they were prepared to work hard, innovate and adapt. In addition, it was often easy to operate in the rag trade where language barriers were less acute. In the climate of a post-war Australia, the European influence of new immigrants was well received, shifting the country’s collective sensibilities and the cultural landscape of fashion.

POL Magazine. Museum Collection.

POL Magazine. Museum Collection.

In line with this maturing Australian awareness of style and expression, POL magazine emerged. Established by the controversial entrepreneur, Gareth Powell in 1969, the publication tapped into the radical spirit of its time. Adopting high production values and edgy editorial design, its fresh approach attracted an influx of progressive photographers and contributors.

Featured among the pages of the first issue is the Hibodress blouse factory, accompanied by an article which touts the rise of the see-through blouse. The article itself is a testament to the brand’s position at the fore of Australian fashion and the ingenuity of its founders.

POL Editorial. Courtesy Sydney Jewish Museum Collection

POL Editorial.  Museum Collection

The success of Hibodress, which was established two weeks after founders John and Olga Horak arrived in Australia, was multifaceted. John – a qualified textile engineer from the Czech Republic – worked alongside Olga who, despite no formal training, had an innate eye for fashion resulting in a bold line of wash-and-wear blouses.

Blouses from the Hibodress Factory. Museum Collection

Blouses from the Hibodress Factory. Museum Collection

While the Magazine was discontinued in 1986, its legacy is evident in both its experimental photography and challenging features.

During his tenure as the magazine’s editor, Don Dustan had this to say: ‘Pol delights in excellence, individuality, creativity and zest for life. We chronicle Australia’s maturity. We pursue the causes of the good. Australians of the world unite and read POL – you have nothing to lose but your cultural cringe’.

Authors: Rachael Mensforth, Curator and Natalia Thomas, Marketing Manager.

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