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August 1 2014

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Down Under, Sooner: Tim Blanks On Sydney’s Shifting Schedule Among The International Fashion Weeks

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Friday brought news that Sydney’s fashion week is going to move up from its current slot in May to the end of March, which will align it more successfully with the international show calendar. Maybe there’s some kind of logic in that, but if fashion’s selling cycles, media cycles, and retail cycles are spinning in ever more byzantine circles of overlap, spare a sympathetic thought for Australia’s designers, who are now living through next winter while they just showed clothes for the spring after the one the Northern Hemisphere is currently enjoying (or, in London’s case, enduring). The challenge of rationalizing domestic and international markets has been eased somewhat by the unstoppable phenomenon of the pre-collection, which allows designers from both hemispheres to operate simultaneously, in a nebulous state of seasonlessness, but the calendar adjustment hones in on another challenge: how to market spring/summer while the rest of the industry is focusing on fall/winter. Or, to clarify the question posed by last week’s event (Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, to give it its official nom de guerre): What is Sydney’s fit amongst the world’s fashion capitals?

And back comes the answer: Fit is the city’s fit. Sydney was basking in a freakish Indian summer. Beaches were crowded. The irresistible physicality of the city was in full effect, enhanced by the general glow of prosperity that comes with a boom economy. The designers who flourished on—and off—the MBFWA catwalks were the ones who bottled the glow, corralled the body beautiful. And they were simply the best not just because they made the most of Sydney’s physical assets, but because doing so takes a significant amount of technique. Nicky Zimmermann might start with a swimsuit, but she transmuted a tankini into an entire collection, with splatter prints, biker zips, and a corrugated metallic effect adding an edge to floaty, patchworked floral pieces. Lisa Ho’s specialty is the kind of sleek-lined, palazzo-panted eveningwear that is made to grace a Slim Aarons-like ideal of the languid good life. She’s gotten very good at it, effortlessly crossing over from Sydney socialites to Hollywood hot stuff like Jennifer Lopez, but, significantly, the further from the body she got with her latest collection, the less successful were the dresses. In Sydney, it is, after all, about the body, which golden boys Josh Goot and Dion Lee acknowledged with collections that started with a scuba second skin. Lee previewed some stunning pre-collection looks that were designed to evoke a sense of movement underwater, with thermal film adding a reflective shimmer to dresses bonded with neoprene and a shivering gill-like detail running down the side of skirts.

MBFWA told another story this season, with the return of Jenny Kee and Akira Isogawa to the catwalk after long absences. Both of them embody the one-of-a-kind craft that exists outside fashion, in Kee’s case the indigenous inspirations of Australia’s incredible flora and fauna; in Akira’s (pictured, above), the artisanship of his native Japan. The exuberant colour and idiosyncratic beauty of their work provided different shades to Sydney’s palette, but there was still the sense of hothouse hermeticism that distinguished the work of their more body-conscious peers. And quite frankly, the whole notion was utterly seductive, especially when you were sipping something splendid on a terrace with a peerless view of the Opera House tinged pink by another perfect sunset.

Photo: Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

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