Modernity is the Mode at Australian Fashion Week

Having abstained from fashion week last year, I decided to make the most of it this year.

Instead of attending as a blogger, I had the valuable experience of shadowing Tania Debono and assisting FABY Australia‘s social media team backstage. In the midst of frequent trips in and out of the media room and one harrowing experience in the pit (cue screeching violins), I attempted to document the week on a disposable camera.

By some cruel act of fate, my experiment failed.

Contrary to my assumption, 24 exposures — most of them poorly lit beyond help, at that — weren’t enough to properly document the week’s standout shows. Hence my rantings and ravings about some of the incredible collections on show are accompanied by whatever digital snaps I could muster. You’ll have to fill in any gaps.

Without further ado, the collections.


Backstage at TOME

There was the TOME show — just short of momentous for the local industry, given Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin have only shown in New York before. Combining pre-autumn and autumn/winter pieces, the show was abundant in the crisp shirting and subtly subversive notions of femininity that have become the label’s signature, and established the tone of modernity that followed throughout the week.

At STRATEAS.CARLUCCI, that sense of modernity translated to broad coats and billowing flares, rendered in neutral shades and juxtaposed by kaleidoscope-printed jacquard suiting. Here was a collection intended to dissolve the distinction between everyday clothing and transcendent fashion — something the label does very well. If this week’s show is any indication, the label’s on-schedule debut at Paris later this year is sure to be a success.

No overview of Australian fashion is complete without mentioning Maticevski. Like Raf Simons at Dior, Toni Maticevski is renowned for his ability to imbue the most traditional garments with a youthful modernity befitting his contemporary clientele. This season Maticevski reasserted his infamous aesthetic — a sculptural confluence of the pristine and the gritty — whilst introducing unexpected new elements, like an array of titillating gold looks with the appearance of solid metal. Not only were the garments superb, the show itself highlighted the designer’s exponential growth — a word one wouldn’t normally associate with Maticevski, who tends towards the same silhouettes in each collection. Maticevski’s growth is akin to Karl Lagerfeld’s at Chanel — that is, it lies in his ability to keep things interesting, season in, season out, without straying from what his customers evidently love.


Backstage at Alice McCall

More so than ever, the line-up this year tended towards the up-and-comers of Australian fashion — relatively unheard-of designers who are rapidly gaining traction both locally and internationally.

Among them, Khim Hang of HAN, who drew on his Cambodian heritage and streetwear influences to create a collection of basics with a conscience. Fashion with feeling is a rarity in the dominantly commercial Australian fashion industry, and Hang has been applauded by the local media for his commitment to social justice, having recently established a small factory in Cambodia, where his collections are produced.

Meanwhile, both Daniel Avakian and Ashkar Line — the latter a recent amalgamation of designers Jamie Ashkar and Tristan Melle — took a different tack, showing womenswear for the masses. Wearable and characterised by fluid simplicity, both collections echoed the adage that one needn’t reinvent the wheel in order to succeed. Provided the necessary care and caution, this trio of rising talents will have little trouble finding a sustainable customer base.

If the aforementioned collections illustrate anything, it’s the abundance of womenswear to be had at MBFWA. Australian menswear, it seems, has withered away, relegated to the less-followed graduate collections. Shown in the Raffles International Showcase, DE LA MOTTE made a strong case for Australian menswear, with a collection of well-constructed, relaxed basics inspired by designer Anne de la Motte’s country upbringing. Judging by post-show chatter, the collection’s prints — borrowed from paintings by the designer’s mother, artist Gillian de La Motte — were crowd favourites, as was one dusty-toned take on the peak-lapelled coat.


Backstage at Romance Was Born

The highlight of the week came during my final show for the week. In a salon presentation at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, titled ‘Cooee Couture’, Romance Was Born showed the fruits of a collaboration with artist Linda Jackson. The collection of handmade one-offs was a continuation of Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales’ ongoing exploration of Australiana and, by the designers’ insurmountable standards, hardly an extravagant affair. The irrefutable highlight of the collection became evident post-show, when editors and buyers alike leapt from their seats to photograph Ruby Jean Wilson, transformed into the ‘pearly sea urchin bride’ at the centre of Romance Was Born’s tableaux vivant. Watching from a distance, I couldn’t help but reflect on how far the industry has come, and how much further it will go.


Sophia Webster heels, backstage at Romance Was Born

Images originally shot for FABY Australia.