Mercedes Benz Australian Fashion Week (formally Rosemount Australian Fashion Week) kicked off in Sydney on Monday, but with a schedule that is noticeably absent of some of the country’s biggest industry names.
Dion Lee, Josh Goot both pulled out at the last minute while Camilla and Marc decided not to show after seven consecutive years at the event. Goot and Lee both said the decision had to do with focusing on international collections. “I think it's important that we consolidate our position, rather than rush into a new collection to show at MBFWA,” Goot said in a statement.
Fair enough. It make sense that designers already accomplished on the local front would decide to focus their agendas on the international level just as Willow, Collette Dinnigan and Sass & Bide have done before them. Lee and Goot have both previously shown in London, so why not continue in that direction?
A show at MBFWA can cost well over $50,000, and with Australian retail struggling it makes sense that labels and designers would be reevaluating their strategies. Revenue has been down 0.7% per annum over the past five years ($12.1 billion), according to IBISWorld.
At the end of the day, all the money spent on rushing production of the collections and putting on the show doesn’t translate into retail sales. Yes, they receive great press, but these labels are already more than established. You have to wonder if it’s worth it.
Why Is Retail Struggling?
The strong Aussie dollar combined with the rise of international e-commerce (an area in which Australia has lagged) have been major factors in the struggles facing brick-and-mortar retail in Australia. Imported designer goods are usually hugely marked up due to import taxes, but the same products are often available on sites like Shopbop.com for half the price and free shipping. Last year when the government suggested a 10% online shopping tax consumers were obviously up in arms.
But it isn’t just the easy access to less expensive overseas goods that hurts Australian business. Local labels tend to come with hefty price tags.
“Many local designers choose to support local industry by having garments made here as opposed to taking production offshore,” explains Dee Jenner, Fashion Editor for SHOP Til You Drop, a retail based magazine and Australia’s highest selling fashion title. “This means that costs are much higher, and thus the RRP is too. I don't think the average consumer understands why things are so expensive, so they turn to mass produced chain stores or international designers as cheaper alternatives.”
So where does this leave labels like Camilla and Marc, Josh Goot and Dion Lee?
MBAFW or not, their stars are on the rise. Dion Lee’s London Winter 12/13 show received rave reviews and his threads have been seen on Emma Watson and Charlize Theron. Camilla and Marc’s been spotted on Drew Barrymore, Kim Kardashian and Kristen Stewart to name a few. Meanwhile, Josh Goot (whose girlfriend Christine Centenerra of >Harper’s Bazaar Australia consulted on Kanye’s first collection) continues to be a fash pack favorite.
The disappointment over these labels not showing is mostly because they are among the most exciting to watch. Heavy hitters are few and far between this year and include Zimmermann, Ksubi and Romance was Born, who have all shown already.
There’s no doubt Australian Fashion Week is a launching pad for local labels, so perhaps this is a year to take note of the fresher talents. Much buzz surrounds newcomer Watson x Watson’s premiere show tomorrow. Next stop London? We’ll see.