Models walk the runway during the Camilla show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 19 Collections at Carriageworks on May 17, 2018, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Stefan Gosatti/Getty Images)
With a myriad of sponsorships and collaborations, a mixture of fashion heavyweights and newcomers, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia (MBFWA) set the scene for a week that stands alongside the most famous runways of international fashion events. Has Australia’s fashion industry entered a new era in terms of competing in a global market? Here are several ways Australian designers have utilized the runways of Fashion Week to garner international prominence in a bid to increase their following and profit margins.
Local Versus International
Australian fashion is still big business at home. According to New South Wales (NSW) Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Adam Marshall, “Fashion is a powerhouse industry that drives annual retail sales of around $9.2 billion and employs some 77,000 people in NSW across manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing.”
Nevertheless, without the all-important global platform, Australian designers would struggle with profit margins.
Edwards and Tregoning have made quite the name for themselves with P.E Nation on the international market.
Pip Edwards, who owns street-meets-sportswear label P.E Nation with Claire Tregoning, says Australia may have a strong fashion presence but it still needs the global market.
“I think Australian fashion breeds a lot of great talent but the realm of fashion is global and we need to showcase at that level,” Edwards said. “Fashion is a numbers game and a volumes game which is provided by an international platform.”
While e-commerce has certainly made a dent in the global fashion market, Australia’s challenges are unique. An increase in online sales has also threatened bricks and mortar retail. Some local designers have no longer been able to pay the exorbitant cost of commercial rent which, in Australia, is also among the most expensive in the world. Thus, their ability to constantly be in the eye of the local consumer is hindered.
A model walks the runway during the I.AM.GIA show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 19 Collections at Carriageworks on May 16, 2018, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)
Australian designers also need to appeal to both the Northern and Southern hemispheres with many a designer adopting a transeasonal approach to their collections, all the while having to meet the demands of the consumer versus maintaining an unfiltered brand aesthetic.
“Like all fashion economies, Australia needs the support and investment of the broader international community,” says Andrew Serrano, Vice President Global Fashion, for international events and talent management company, IMG.
Upping The Ante
With this audience in mind, local designers who featured their collections at this Fashion Week also partook in business savvy initiatives, such as long-term collaborations, to widen their reach.
For example, this year’s Fashion Week lead-up began on a runway – an actual airport runway, with two models sporting garments from local talent Romance Was Born, posing elegantly against the backdrop of an Etihad Airways airliner as part of their Runway to Runway program.
From Runway to Runway, Etihad and Romance Was Born partner to create a mile-high fashion collaboration.
This powerful collaboration between the event’s official airline sponsor and Australia’s rising fashion star was topped with a mid-week exclusive dinner where Romance Was Born unveiled their entire Resort 19 Collection.
Following Fashion Week, Etihad Airways will support Romance Was Born with its international expansion in Paris where the brand plans to present its first collection during Couture Fashion Week.
“Fashion is core to Etihad Airways’ sponsorship strategy, representing an ideal brand fit, sharing attributes of being ambitious, innovative and remarkable,” says Linda Celestino, Vice President Guest Experience and Delivery, Etihad Airways.
Others added a strong dose of theatricality to their presentations to create content designed to be seen by international media, buyers and retailers, along with millions of fashion fans around the world.
“Showing at MBFWA offers these brands, both established and emerging, unparalleled opportunity to achieve international recognition – whether through content creation, global media interaction, or the forging of new retailer relationships that expand their businesses across continents,” Serrano says.
Camilla And Marc show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 19 Collections at the Royal Hall of Industries on May 13, 2018, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Stefan Gosatti/Getty Images)
In this vein, there were several notable stand-outs. Fashion veterans Camilla and Marc celebrated their 15th anniversary by transporting guests to the Australian outback, using 60 tonnes of shipped-in sand and rock formations that dotted a 120-metre runway to showcase their conceptual yet futuristic collection.
Double Rainbouu show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 19 Collections at the Lansdowne Hotel on May 14, 2018, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images)
Double Rainbouu commandeered the Lansdowne Hotel, where Nineties grunge band Nirvana once performed, to showcase Synth Suave – a surfy and psyche urban wear collection which took their brand from printed Hawaiian tees to ready for the runway.
“We always go with our gut and do what feels right,” says designers Mikey Nolan and Toby Jones.
The final “a-ha” moment came in the form of Camilla Franks who closed proceedings with an exotic ready-to-wear collection, presenting to the tune of a Japanese fantasy spiked with trademark prints that are already popular among a slew of international models and Beyonce.
Naturally, the front rows of each show were also filled with a star-studded line-up, including Australian pop duo The Veronicas, international supermodels Delilah Belle Hamlin, Georgia Fowler and Jennifer Hawkins, along with a plethora of notable influencers and international media who had their cameras poised, ready to project the efforts of the Australian fashion industry to the world.
Their concerted efforts appear to be paying off. International buyers have found that the laid-back aesthetic of Australian designers appeals to the international consumer.
Backstage ahead of the Alice McCall show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 19 Collections at Carriageworks on May 14, 2018 in Sydney, Australia.
Online retailer, Shopbop boasts garments from Australian fashion labels Zimmerman, Dion Lee and Alice McCall, among others.
“We look to Australian designers for their fresh take on of-the-moment trends in a wearable and modern aesthetic. Our customers love this effortless and unique approach,” says Kate Johanson, Shopbop Associate Fashion Director.
There’s also a larger demand for Australian designers to show their collections throughout a variety of international fashion weeks with, for example, Tome and Dion Lee showing at New York and Toni Maticevski and Ellery showing in Paris.
A model walks the runway during the Lee Mathews show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 19 Collections at Carriageworks on May 14, 2018, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Stefan Gosatti/Getty Images)
Through a collaborative effort, one forged between local design and an international audience, the business of Australian fashion is reaching the far corners of the globe.
So while the environment looks promising, the future of Australian fashion ultimately still rests in the hands of the international consumer.