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Down Under Update: An In-Depth Look at Australia Fashion Week, Day One


Gail Sorronda - Runway - Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia’s Katharine K. Zarrella reports from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia.

After forty-nine years in the biz, designer Carla Zampatti has become known as the godmother of Australian fashion. So it’s fitting, then, that Zampatti, 71, kicked off Sydney’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia Sunday night with a jam-packed runway show and dinner.

The clothes, like plunging jumpsuits, sheer lace gowns, and fluid frocks (one of which had a dramatic white train), were the stuff Zampatti’s well-to-do hometown clients will scoop up in a second. But it was something she said during her postshow speech that got my attention. Speaking to a crowd that included editors, designers, and, surprisingly enough, Paula Abdul, Zampatti expressed her Australian pride and that soon, Sydney would overtake capitals like Paris, London, and New York as the international fashion stage’s main event.

Realistic? Not really. But that has little to do with the caliber of talent Sydney has to offer. Rather, the problem is the twenty-four-hour flight (for New Yorkers, at least) and crippling jet lag that international press, buyers, and models have to endure in order to attend (hence, brands like Sass & Bide, Tome, and Zimmermann’s choice to take their collections elsewhere).

But Australia’s designers are making an impressive effort to compete. For instance, Monday saw not just one, but two major models, Alessandra Ambrosio and native Aussie Julia Nobis, walk down the runways at Alex Perry and Ellery, respectively.

“I’m really passionate about the Australian fashion industry, and have chosen to cast all Australian and New Zealander models,” offered designer Kim Ellery, who presented her Fall ’14 collection in Paris in March. In Sydney, she turned out a range of eveningwear that played with the concepts of form and shadow. Signature bell sleeves and fluid pleated silk abounded in the predominantly black and white lineup. Particularly impressive were gowns and bustiers embellished with swirling bits of fabric at the front. Oh, and did I mention the location? An oceanfront pool-cum-restaurant at Bondi Beach? Even over the music, we could hear (and see) the waves crashing beneath us. On second thought, perhaps it won’t be so hard to get out-of-towners down here after all.

Peter Strateas and Mario-Luca Carlucci, the Aussie designers behind two-year-old label Strateas. Carlucci, showed at MBFWA for the first time this season—they usually present in Paris. “We felt it was the right time,” said the designers backstage. “We’ve gotten a lot of support locally, and the press was curious, so we thought this was the best way to say this is who we are as a brand, and this is what we’re about.” While the duo are unsure about whether they will continue to show on their home turf, their commitment to Oz is clear. Australian merino wool—in boiled, brushed, and resin-coated varieties—was featured in their taupe, black, and navy collection (a wool cocoon coat was a clear standout), and their leather jackets, accented by handsome, oversize silver zippers, were crafted from kangaroo leather.


Two collections down and I couldn’t help but wonder: Where’s all that color and print that I’d heard so much about? I found them at Desert Designs, a fashion collective that focuses on Australian history and Aboriginal culture. The finale look, an electric printed jacket over bathing suit bottoms, was the perfect cure for my midday exhaustion. And a series of caftans and elastic-waist trousers seemed fit for romps through Sydney and Williamsburg alike.

I wrapped up the day with Gail Sorronda, an imaginative young talent with a delectable dark side. Her theme? The Little Mermaid. The presentation—which was, in part, a collaboration with Disney—opened with a ballet-light-show hybrid, and immediately launched into a parade of models in sheer black, ivory, or coral chiffon looks, many of which had jellyfish-like silhouettes. A T-shirt printed with Sebastian the Crab, paired with houndstooth trousers, was just camp enough to work. However, a jumpsuit and bell-bottoms smattered with mini Ariels felt a touch literal. Sorronda’s real strengths were her more intricate designs. A diaphanous white dress embroidered with pearly beads in the shape of an upside-down octopus was easily the best piece in the show. As for why she sticks to Sydney, the Central Saint Martins-trained Sorronda offered, “Of course it’s my aspiration to travel and be part of the global community, but everything’s so accessible these days through the Internet. And this is my home.”

Photo: Getty Images;

Our Favorite Looks From Sydney Fashion Week


Fashion’s scope is undeniably global. If you’ve been keeping up with Tommy Ton’s latest street-style dispatches, you already know that right now, the action is in Sydney, where it’s all about showcasing local talent. This season, when Aussie heavyweights Dion Lee and Josh Goot pulled out at the last minute (reportedly to focus on building their respective international presences), it gave up-and-comers a chance to seize the spotlight. The week kicked off with Romance Was Born’s action-packed collection, featuring graphic prints borrowed from Marvel comics. Yes, we’ve already seen cartoon couture stateside from Phillip Lim, but this lineup had plenty of its own ka-pow. Other memorable moments included the directional, draped looks in rich-colored silks from Ellery (pictured) and Jenny Kee’s over-the-top headpieces and one-of-a-kind gowns. Naturally, there was a commercial focus, too. Retailers are sure to scoop up the on-trend denim-on-denim looks seen at Ksubi and Zimmermann’s perfectly pretty, floral frocks. It seems things are looking up down under.

CLICK FOR A SLIDESHOW to check out our Sydney fashion week highlights.

Photo: Stefan Gosatti / Getty Images