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Oz stylewatch: 2015 Australian fashion week highlights

Is there such a thing as an Australian style anymore?

The collections at fashion week had a distinctly international flavour, reflecting the need now for Australian designers to look beyond our shores to establish viable businesses. As the impact of online shopping and the arrival of global fast fashion chains continues, smart designers are creating transseasonal ranges that appeal to shoppers here and overseas, which means the trends on our runways are now the same as anywhere else in the world.

This season that translated to culottes, crystals, brocade and flares, flares, flares as the golden era of 70s glamour continues to cast its influence.

The highly commercial air of the week meant Australian fashion week at times lacked originality and excitement, but it’s still a win for shoppers who just a decade ago were starved of on-trend options at all price points.

In terms of price points, the Australian fashion industry is a lot like Australian society: there is a solid working-class base of mass-market brands, a bulging middle class of commercially minded concerns, and a small upper crust of superlative designers. The latter at fashion week included Toni Maticevski, Kym Ellery and Romance Was Born’s Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett, who are celebrating a decade in business since founding their label in 2005.

The one thing fashion week lacked this year was the raw energy of exciting new talent – I’m thinking of Romance Was Born when they made their fashion week debut in 2007. Trends come and go but fresh blood and ideas are crucial to the evolution of fashion. Hopefully next year.
Kym Ellery
Kym Ellery shows regularly during Paris fashion week and her presentation which opened fashion week here had the polish, panache and exacting standards that define fashion in the French capital.

Perth supermodel Gemma Ward kickstarted the show, which saw metallic fringing, suede and brocade added to Ellery’s signature tailoring and flares. The show included a performance by dancers from the Australian Ballet, and an unexpected performance from an irate neighbour who stormed the catwalk to protest at the noise level emanating from the Carriageworks venue.


Culottes by Tome. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin grew up in Sydney but are now based in New York, lending their spring summer collection a truly international feel. Breezy culottes, crystal-encrusted dresses and countless riffs on the “perfect white shirt” were the defining features of the range that attracted a host of high-profile fans to the front row, including Gemma Ward, model Tanja Gagic and Lindy Klim, entrepreneur and wife of swimmer Michael Klim.

Michael Lo Sordo
The only constant in fashion is change. In an industry fixated on newness and renewal it’s good to shake things up from the time to time, and so Michael Lo Sordo did with a 360 turn from his signature tailoring to embrace diaphanous gowns in baby blue, ivory and the palest of pretty pinks. The airy silhouettes and ice-cream colours were a welcome palette cleanser to a week more usually defined by strict tailoring and plenty of basic black.

Speaking of black, there was plenty in evidence at Strateas.Carlucci. The heavy fabrications, copious layers and thick knitwear on the runway were more autumn winter than spring summer, reflecting the recent return of designers Peter Strateas and Mario-Luca from wintry Beijing, where they contested the International Woolmark Prize. The pair was among just a handful of designers to show menswear on their runway, which included gold brocade suits for peacocks and elegant peacoats for more conservative tastes.

Many designers bandy about the word “couture” when they can’t even finish a hem properly, but Toni Maticevski showed why he is rightly referred to as the couturier of Australia when he delivered the standout show of the week. The Melbourne designer called on elaborate draping, folding and tucking techniques to create exquisite evening wear and some rather futuristic looking sleek metallic separates.

Printed sportswear by We Are Handsome. Photograph: Mark Nolan/Getty Images

We Are Handsome
There was plenty of incentive to go to the gym, or at least to look good while pretending to, in the new activewear range unveiled by We Are Handsome on the tennis courts at White City. Bright digital print leggings, crop tops and shorts were among the looks that were refreshingly worn by actual athletes rather than models, including former champion pole vaulter Amanda Bisk and yoga teacher Kate Kendall. We are Handsome was launched in 2009 as a swimwear brand featuring digital prints of animals and landscapes.

Akira Isogawa
When Akira Isogawa made his fashion week debut in 1996, he couldn’t afford shoes for his models so he sent them out in red socks instead. The red socks made a return for Isogawa’s 2015 show, when he paid tribute to his original no-frills runway as the only designer on this year’s 20th anniversary schedule who showed at the inaugural event. The catwalk was packed predominantly with archival pieces, although some edgy new leather looks also put in an appearance while remaining true to the designer’s signature east-west fusion. Speaking of updates, the red socks were also supplemented with some spanking new red Adidas trainers.

Bianca Spender
Since founding her eponymous label in 2009, Spender has struggled with people constantly making associations with her famous designer mother, Carla Zampatti. But her spring-summer collection was an assured and impressive statement of independence. Inspired by Sydney Dance Company’s recent production Frame of Mind, Spender slashed dance-style full skirts with tiny incisions and employed godets to create beautiful 30s-style silhouettes perfect for the modern-day prima ballerina.

Romance was Born
Ned Kelly made his fashion week debut alongside a sea urchin bride and a Waratah Jillaroo in the highly creative and colourful show that enticed smiles from even the most jaded fashion hacks in the front row. The brand’s Cooee Couture collection was not about couture in the French sense, said designers Luke Plunkett and Anna Sales. Rather it was a celebration of Australian fashion icon Linda Jackson, who collaborated with the duo for the show. Held in the Old Australian Art section of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The presentation was fashion as theatre and art, and showcased 22 looks inspired by Australian flora and fauna.

Ten Pieces

Models showcase designs along the edge of the Bondi Icebergs pool. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

If the Romance Was Born show featured an Australian fashion icon, Ten Pieces put fashion in an iconic Australian location. Restaurateur Maurice Terzini and his partner Lucy Hinckfuss drained the Icebergs pool at Bondi Beach to present their monochromatic unisex collection on a perfectly sunny Sydney afternoon.

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