For a true indsider's take on Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, which just wrapped last week in Sydney, we asked our friend Alyx Gorman, fashion editor at one of Australia's biggest lifestyle sites The Vine, (and formerly of Oyster) to break it down for us. You'll learn about the buzzy new labels down under, who is behind them, and why they matter in Australia.
Check out Alyx's picks for the best of Australian Fashion Week.
11: Vanishing Elephant Who they are: Founded by Huw Bennett, Felix Chan and Arran Russell, in conjunction with one of Australia’s coolest boutique chains, Incu, Vanishing Elephant started out making casual menswear, then expanded into suiting and tom-boyish women’s wear. Why they matter in Australia: Local menswear labels are thin on the ground, and Vanishing Elephant’s folksy-preppy printed shirts, colored chinos and washed-out blazers have pretty much dictated men’s style in this country since they launched five years ago. Their womenswear is like their menswear, but for girls. Which is what you want, really. This was their first ever runway show. What they showed: Faded mixed prints (florals, polka dots, sharks), olive green anoraks, tapered trousers, boy scout shorts and backpacks, punctuated by skinny black and olive suiting on men and women. Best Look: Yellow hibiscus chinos, a black button down linen shirt, and a schoolboy blazer, complete with crest badge.
10: We Are Handsome Who they are: A swimwear brand known for their big, fantastical prints who have expanded their empire to include tights, capes, cards, phone covers, couches and as of this season, bicycles. Why they matter in Australia: WAH are one of the country's fastest growing brands, thanks to a cult celeb following (Rihanna and Katy Perry swear by their swimmers) and a genius social media strategy that includes mix tapes, content creation and an 'anyone can play' approach to getting their product shot. Their swimwear also commands a very premium price, which is impressive for a relatively young brand. What they showed: WAH's new prints include jungle leaves, roaring lions, desertscapes and rearing horses, on one pieces, bikinis, tights and flowing beach coats. The boys wore towels and boardies. But what makes WAH stand out is how fun they are. Every model wore a smile, walked with a bounce and had huge glossy hair to match her cheesy showgirl makeup. The soundtrack was all pumping eighties disco and the models rode bikes down the runway. Best look: A model on a black and white striped bike, wearing a one piece with a snarling white tiger.
9: Karla Spetic Who she is: Karla Spetic is a women's ready-to-wear designer who focuses on tailoring and has been since 2008. Why she matters in Australia: Thanks to chops and changes in her press management and a long pathway to discernible handwriting, Spetic has become one of Australia's most underrated designers. What she showed: Crisp, calf length dressed with cotton and organza panels, lace pencil skirts, cropped blouses, lots of white with punched of sky blue and fuchsia and a stained glass Jesus print. Best look: A flared, richly printed skirt, with a black cotton and organza short top.
8: Emma Mulholland Who she is: The new kid on the block. She graduated from Australia’s most prestigious design school, Ultimo TAFE in 2011. Her designs are extremely silly streetwear, but we like that. Why she matters in Australia: Mulholland is hooked up and ultra talented. She’s worked for Romance Was Born and Ksubi, she’s BFFs with loads of models and photographers and her show was produced by former Harper’s Bazaar Fashion Director Mark Vassallo, who is probably the single most influential person in the Australian fashion industry. What she showed: A mens and womenswear homage to nineties surfer dag, complete with backpacks, singlet tops, board shorts, and a recurring sharpie scribble print, with some sequins and the occasional sea creature to spice things up. This was called Spring Breakers, but looked more like Selena Gomez et al had spent their whole Florida vacay at Sea World. Best look: A white mini shift with a giant sequined orca on it.
7: Ellery Who she is: A former RUSSH girl who has been dressing the cool crowd in statement shoulders and burnished textiles since 2007. Why she matters in Australia: Ellery is one of the strongest brands in Australia, thanks to designer Kym Ellery's massive cool-factor, and a sensible design strategy that focuses on mixing glittering show pieces like ultra flared pants and sculpted blouses with worn-in tee shirts and accessible little dresses. Lately Ellery has run into legal drama after she switched department store stockists from Myer (who had her exclusively) to David Jones (who stock just about every other Australian designer). She made the swap because Myer was pressuring her to do workwear, and now they’re suing. The case will be decided in the Australian Supreme Court. What she showed: An extension of her last collection which included lots of dramatic floor length skirts, metallic textiles and shoulders with single, dramatic frills at the shoulder seams. To this she added lots of shaggy faux fur. Best look: Hanne Gabby Odiele as a pristine white colored bride in a flared, ground skimming dress, split down the centre with a fluffy cream bib.
6: Toni Maticevski Who he is: An evening and formal-wear designer whose label is celebrating its fifteenth year in business (a lifetime for an Australian brand). Why he matters in Australia: Getting dressed up for the races (a cross between your Sunday best and cocktail hour) is Australia’s strongest fashion tradition, and Toni Maticevski owns that space. Unfortunately getting blind-drunk and losing your shoes at the races is also traditional, so this is a double edged sword. Maticevski is also one of the few designers left at the Myer department store. What he showed: Some cap shouldered, calf length dresses with peplums, followed by some amazing sculptural neoprene eveningwear like gowns and fold-fronted pencil skirts. Best look: A dramatic space-aged hot coral ball gown.
5: From Britten Who they are: Two brothers who do menswear and founded their label in 2010. Why they matter in Australia: Menswear designers are rare in Australia. Menswear designers who have decent PR representation in Europe are rarer. Menswear designers who have decent PR representation in Europe and have won the LMFF Designer Award (Australia’s second most important fashion prize after the Woolmark award), can be counted on two fingers. The other label that falls into the very specific category is Song For The Mute, who didn’t show. What they showed: Culottes, shirting, slim suit jackets, swishy pants and lots of high tech fabric. Best look: A royal purple bomber jacket with contrasting lavender lining, navy blue shirt, and big, swishy shorts.
4: Camilla Who she is: The queen of caftans, Camilla has been selling insane rainbow, sequined cover-ups for up to $2000 for 9 years. Why she matters in Australia: Thanks to her ultra recognizable, rainbow and exotic in an everywhere-at-once way prints and staple items, Camilla is one of Australia's most successful, long running brands. What she showed: The same sort of thing she always shows, but in a giant purpose-pitched tent, in the middle of an ornate parkland, with Camilla's range of rugs laid out on the grass outside, and real life owls, llamas and parrots chilling at the front of the show. Best look: Camilla doing a whole lap of the runway at the end of the show, wearing her finest and holding hands with a pantsless Georgia May Jagger.
3: Dion Lee Who he is: A women's ready to wear designer focused on tailoring who has been around since 2008 and is stocked on Net-A-Porter. Why he matters in Australia: Dion Lee is Australia's golden child. His fashion is fiercely his own and realized with rigorous clarity. He was Australia's finalist in the Woolmark awards this year and the fashion media here threw a hissy fit when he didn't win. What he showed: Complex, plait-paneled dresses, suiting with cutaway features, curving science-fiction bodice fronts made of metal, lots of halter necks and flat shoes. This year Lee's presentation was an intimate dinner, off the official IMG schedule, and he only showed 15 looks. Best look: A white asymmetrical halter neck with white straps crisscrossing the hips and falling into slightly slouched, tapered black pants, worn by Julia Nobis.
2: Romance Was Born Who are they: Australia's Meadham Kirchhoff Why they matter in Australia: Romance already have collaborations with Archibald Prize winning painters and Cate Blanchett (in her role as Creative Director of Sydney Theatre Company) under their (thickly embellished) belts and a reputation for runway spectacles. What they showed: Harajuku worthy mini dresses, frills and flares over smocks all inspired by Lewis Carol's Alice, psychedelic and the art of Pip and Pop, who constructed a glowing, sugar-coated miniature Wonderland which the models first lapped, then posed inside. Best Look: An atomic rainbow wide sleeved tee, worn with feathered flares and deranged, kewpi doll makeup.
1: Easton Pearson Who they are: Brisbane based, Australian Fashion Laureate winners who have been around since 1989. Why they matter in Australia: In Australia the Easton Pearson women are legends, with their own unique language. They were Marni before Marni and they only show every five years. What they showed: Painted silks, complex beading and ribbon embellishment, shapes in the tradition of Cristobel Balenciaga and gowns that wouldn't look out of place in a golden age film, set on a boat to Paris. Best look: The closing dress with its ruby encrusted bodice, full, periwinkle, floral painted skirt with sprays of sequins and holographic dotted petticoat was one of the best gowns I've ever seen on any runway, anywhere.