Australia Fashion Week Comes to a Close
Australia fashion week wrapped in Sydney today, and Style.com’s special projects editor, Maya Singer, has been reporting back on the most exciting shows. To view our complete Australia fashion week coverage, click here.
Fashion week in Sydney concluded this afternoon with a show by Zambesi (left), one of the major brands from New Zealand. Even if you hadn’t known that Zambesi was based in Auckland, the clothes on the runway made it altogether clear that a non-Australian sensibility was at work. To put it plainly, Zambesi designers Elisabeth Findlay and Dayne Johnston have an affection for the eccentric and borderline frumpy that the local Sydney designers do not share at all. The men’s looks, designed by Johnston, were relatively straightforward—vaguely thuggish tailoring, plus the odd flourish like a pair of tailored wool shortalls. The womenswear, from Findlay, had a bit more range, with crispy and rather clinical white looks ebbing into more challenging pieces, such as long narrow dresses covered with fringe tassels. For both sexes, the sharpest looks were the ones in a tartan organza; very on-trend, that.
Zambesi aren’t the only carpetbaggers on the Australian fashion scene. Jewelry designer Estelle Dévé hails from the South of France, originally, but her brand is based in Melbourne, and in the five years since she launched, it has emerged as something of a cult phenomenon. Dévé’s signature pieces are plated rings with a rough-hewn look; this season, she’s elevated her aesthetic quite a bit, drawing on her French heritage for a bit of soigné, and sourcing influence from the surrealists. Standout pieces in the new collection include statement necklaces with egg-shaped crystal pendants half-covered in a dissolving layer of silver.
Dévé adapted several pieces from the new collection for a capsule range of bracelets and necklaces made in collaboration with Camilla and Marc (left). Those pieces were on the Camilla and Marc catwalk at the very start of Australian Fashion Week; so too was the jewelry work of Ryan Storer, whose dangerous-looking ear pieces adorned all the models at the show. Storey’s brand is ultra-new”—his very small debut collection is shipping to stores now, with a selection of the ear pieces due to arrive at Browns in London at any moment.
Not all the fashion action here in Sydney is happening on the runway. Case in point: Josh Goot. Goot is one of Australia’s buzziest designers, but he didn’t send his collection down the catwalk this season. Instead, Goot presented his jungle-themed clothes by appointment, an arrangement that allowed you to get up close and personal with his rigorous construction and innovative fabrications. Notable among the latter were Goot’s signature foam-bonded materials, in which silk or leather or jacquard were fused to a thin piece of foam, and deployed in super-structured bustiers and A-line wrap skirts, among many other pieces. Goot likes his body-con, but in that idiomatically Australian way, he does sexy with a tomboyish twist; that was particularly true of this collection, in which some of the best items included slouchy, color-blocked trousers and board shorts, and a range of terrific, very natty shirting.
Goot is one of several Australian designers with a flagship shop by the corner of Glenmore Road and Oxford Street, in the Paddington area of Sydney. If you want to take the temperature of the local design talent, Oxford and Glenmore is your intersection; it’s also a good place to come to check out Scanlan & Theodore, a chain of high-end multibrand shops with its own ambitious house label. (You could think of it as an Aussie JOSEPH.) Farther along Oxford Street, as you head downtown, you stumble onto SERVICE, which stocks denim and apparel from the Melbourne-based brands Neuw and Rolla’s. Neuw has wide international distribution already (it’s sold at Fred Segal in Los Angeles, among other stores, and OAK in New York City), but Rolla’s has yet to make the trip abroad. It should; the label’s high-waisted skinny jeans seem like a phenomenon waiting to happen.
Back on the runway, there was Emma Mulholland, an up-and-coming designer with a distinctly rave-y aesthetic. This season, her starting point was eighties surf and snowboard culture, and though it’s unlikely that Mulholland’s backpacks with surfboard fins are going to find a huge demand in the marketplace, her excellent bomber jackets seem likely to.
Once again, the weather in Sydney seems to be doing the bidding of the Australian fashion week designers. Yesterday, rain. Today, the sun shone bright and hot as swimwear brand We Are Handsome sent bikini-clad models down the runway on bicycles. The skies were equally bright for Camilla designer Camilla Franks, who erected tepees in Centennial Park. (Georgia May Jagger made the trip to Oz to model Franks’ hippie-glam printed looks; left.)
Meanwhile, the summery vibe was definitely palpable in Alice McCall’s new collection (below), which conjured the sea. McCall found more than a few ways to weave her ocean-life theme into her gossamer clothes—there were watercolor polyp prints, crustacean-inspired beading, scalloped ruffles redolent of sea grass, and so on. The show could have used an edit, to be frank. But there were some strong looks here, particularly the pieces with Art Nouveau-style cutwork, and McCall’s bell-shaped sleeves added a nice editorial element.
As is their wont, Nic Briand and Susien Chong aren’t showing LOVER on the runway this season. But I stopped by their office to see the new collection, which does double-duty as the Spring ’14 collection in Australia and the Fall ’13 collection for the Northern Hemisphere. There was a small range of lightweight pastel-colored looks intended solely for the warm-weather Australian market, but in general, these clothes seemed suitable for all seasons and all places, with the LOVER-signature lace reworked in a variety of ways. Pleated skirts of polished lace looked especially sharp.
Australia is having a jewelry moment. And ManiaMania may be the buzziest of the up-and-coming brands here, with a following worldwide and a fine habit of casting top-tier models in their campaigns. Last season, ManiaMania designers Melanie Kamsler and Tamila Purvis recruited Jamie Bochert to model their bohemian bling; this time out, Aussie model (and Marc Jacobs favorite) Ruby Jean Wilson channeled silent-film star Theda Bara. One of the top-selling pieces in the new collection, Purvis said, was a headpiece loosely inspired by Bara’s on-screen turn as Cleopatra. Elsewhere, there were crystal-adorned rings and cuffs that alluded to Bara’s purported relationship with the occult. Jewelry: It is kind of magical, isn’t it?
Day Two of Australia fashion week dawned wet and gray, with the sky over Sydney heaving a seemingly biblical quantity of rain. As it turned out, the weather was a fitting prelude to the morning’s moody Karla Spetic show (left). Spetic is a young designer, so you forgive her iffy initiatives like this collection’s stained-glass prints, with their close-ups of Jesus front and center. And you want to be forgiving, too, because the rest of this collection was really quite lovely, in particular the floral lace pieces and Spetic’s patchwork slipdresses that hung slack off the body. It was the subtleties of Spetic’s work that revealed her promise—the liquid movement of a full fuchsia organza skirt, or the shock of a small band of pink in an otherwise all-white dress. There was a real sense of thoroughness and ingenuity in those details.
Spetic’s show was very, very pretty. And Toni Maticevski’s outing later in the day channeled another kind of loveliness, proffering visions high-class and soigné. Lots of very on-trend New Look skirts here, but Maticevski’s real innovation was to sculpt neoprene into various mellifluous shapes. Structured neoprene cocktail dresses with scuba-like racer-back tops were particular standouts. It’s also worth calling out Maticevski’s bags, which were made from real carnations in collaboration with local florist, artist, and doctor of philosophy, Doctor Lisa Cooper. Maticevski and Cooper should get to work on producing faux-carnation versions of those bags—more than a few editors at today’s show were overheard proclaiming their intention to abscond with them straight off the runway.
And speaking of thievery…Rising Sydney star Kym Ellery’s show today elaborated on the bandit themes of the collection she presented for Northern Hemisphere Fall ’13. Ellery repeated a few looks entire and used a lot of the same fabrics; notably, the Old Master floral print that was a Fall ’13 standout showed up here in a pair of the designer’s signature flares. But Ellery showed much that was new, too, including dresses built up from layers of waist-tied outerwear, slouchy bustiers, and jackets trimmed with long fur. There was a lot to get excited about, but the complaint here was that the looks occasionally came off a touch heavy; it’s a good thing that Ellery is loyal to her muscular top silhouettes, but she’s more than capable of finding new ways to articulate that idea. Indeed, in today’s show, she sent out a short, pale blue shift of gossamer lightness, with sharp shoulders constructed from squares of fabric; that did the job nicely.
Like Ellery, Dion Lee returned to Sydney to offer a coda to the collection he showed up North for Fall. Lee is, of course, Australia’s Great Fashion Hope—the innovator of textiles and master patternmaker who was a finalist for this year’s relaunched Woolmark Prize. Next season, Lee will be back on the catwalk schedule in London, but this evening he presented a concise selection of looks over dinner at the Sydney Opera House. The location was particularly fitting given that the famous sail-like Opera House structure was itself the galvanizing inspiration for Lee’s collection. There wasn’t much that felt new here if you’d seen the Fall ’13 Northern Hemisphere collection, but as always, there was much to like, in particular dresses of knotted mesh and a leather jacket with a wavelike construction.
People in Sydney are really, really fit. One thing even the most jet-lag-addled first-time visitor to the city can’t help noticing is the runners: People run to work here, they spend their lunch hour jogging, and on a balmy evening, legions of the spandex clad crowd the roads. Then there are the cyclists, and the morning surfers, and the women doing boot-camp classes in the park—in every park. It’s no wonder that girls here have incredible legs, and the strong backs and shoulders of swimmers, and once you’ve spent a day in Sydney noticing all that, it’s also no wonder that the designers here make such a fetish of the athletic female form.
That sense of athletic sexiness has been one of the distinguishing features of Camilla and Marc (left). The Sydney-based brand opened fashion week here with its tenth anniversary show; the collection was overtly self-referential, with designers Camilla Freeman-Topper and Marc Freeman sending out lots of updated takes on their signature silhouettes: notably flared skater skirts, racer-back tanks that looked especially fine in gold jacquard, and super-slouchy drop-crotch trousers. The Freeman siblings are very good at finding ways to distort or exaggerate silhouettes without sacrificing the essential sexiness of their clothes—those drop-crotch trousers are a case in point, and so too the show’s razor-sharp white leathers, a reiteration of pieces the brand showed in its Northern Hemisphere collection for Fall.
Christopher Esber is not yet a familiar name outside the Antipodes, but this emerging designer has a ton of promise. Though the silhouettes in his new collection were straightforward and accessible, Esber found various ways to give them an unexpected twist, whether by patterning his clothes to have a hang that was ever-so-slightly off, or integrating a sculptural flourish. Esber also has an interesting taste in textiles—a see-through check was particularly nice, as was a squishy technical fabric in royal blue. Occasionally, Esber revealed a tendency to muddle his looks; his talent really shone in the pieces that were simplest, like a gossamer white T-shirt dress or a wrap skirt with an off-kilter drape.
The final show this evening was from the highly theatrical Romance Was Born (above), designed by Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett. As the candy-colored mushrooms on the catwalk suggested it would be, this collection was a journey into a particularly girlish psychedelia. The designers’ technical abilities proved remarkable—their short bubble dress had the controlled volume of a beach ball freshly pumped with air, while the ruched pieces that concluded the show had a couture-like fineness. And it was easy to be charmed by Sales and Plunkett’s puckish sense of humor, notable especially in their hallucinogenic prints. But if you looked past their aggressive styling, you could see that the Aussie sensibility was there in spades—this was a collection with no shortage of abbreviated hemlines, the better to show off a pair of fantastic legs, and bustier tops suitable for women with sinewy swimmers’ shoulders.