In recent years, Australia has slowly taken the lead in dictating fashion trends. Instagram, fashion bloggers, and a select few emerging designers being picked up by international retailers (on- and offline) have been at the centre of this movement. And today, fashion in Australia – Australia’s fashion industry has begun to shift, with many tipping Down Under as the next IT fashion destination. However, one thing has lagged behind… fashion week.
Australia earned its fashion stripes when event producers, IMG, announced the move to shift Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia (MBFWA) from April (back) to late May. In recent years, MBFWA has showcased designers’ spring summer collections in April — something critics considered ill timed because the buying window for spring summer collections in most parts of the world would have just closed. But it seems by shifting the schedule by one month, and jumping on the resort schedule, Australia has made itself relevant to the global fashion week schedule and grabbed the attention of regional and global buyers.
IMG director of brand and strategy, Emily Weight told The Australian that the decision to shift the schedule will help pave the way forward for Australia’s burgeoning fashion industry. “This is the key to global growth for our industry — we can’t isolate any more,’’ she said.
Why the move to resort?
Resort may be a relatively new term in the fashion calendar but it’s proving to be increasingly important to designers and retailers. While it began as a way for high-end brands to cater to the well-heeled shopper with the luxury of spending winter in warmer climates, and trans-seasonal dressing, more and more designers are choosing to produce resort collections in order to keep up with growing customer interest.
Travel is the new luxury, and shoppers nowadays lead largely global lifestyles, requiring flexible wardrobes that transcend the seasons. Resort appeals to this idea of abandoning seasonality — offering trans-seasonal garments that transition effortlessly between the summer temperatures in the tropics and chilly winters north of the equator.
Consequently, retailers are also picking up on resort’s commercial potential – it is considered a big driver of sales with many retailers allocating 60-90% of the season’s budget to resort collections.
Leaders of the pack
The calibre of design talent in Australia was on proud display at MBFWA. Media, critics and industry insiders have dumped praise on the 6-day fashion spectacle, lauding designers from Zimmermann to Camilla to Dion Lee, to name a few, for their incredible runway output and equally stunning production values. The verdict: There is no short of creativity and talent emerging out of Australia.
Arguably one of Australia’s biggest fashion success stories — the Zimmermann sisters, Nicky and Simone pioneered the dominant swim-infused resort aesthetic that catapulted Australia to fashion fame. Meanwhile, Camilla (in her 10th year) staged an African-inspired showcase on a party boat that cruised through the Sydney Harbour just after dawn, providing plenty of holiday-soaked vibes that matched perfectly with Camilla’s kaleidoscopic prints. Also riding the waves of international success is up-and-coming designer, Dion Lee. Leading the breakthrough for Australian fashion, Lee’s technical experiments with fashion construction and tailoring truly belongs on the world stage.
Resort suits the Australian way
MBFWA’s new focus on resort bodes well for the industry, given that resort fashion collections and trans-seasonal dressing has long been considered to be one of Australia’s strengths. Australia displays a proven track record when it comes to swim, holiday and party wear and resortwear is a natural extension of that. Australia’s beach culture and laidback lifestyle lends itself well to the lighter, comfortable creations that make up the resort collections.
Australian fashion bloggers – big and small – have also latched onto the cruise style. One even braving the depths of Australian winter to get the perfect shot in the latest threads.
Emerging brands and where to buy them
There is a decidedly resort mood afoot in the Australian retail market. In the past few years alone, new Australia brands such Bondi Bather, Monster Alphabets and Third Form have lighted up the scene with new and electrifying style offerings. Many of these brands betray an identity that is unmistakably Australian. From the sun-worshipping mentality of Bondi Bather to the casual minimalistic style of Monster Alphabets, all of them pay homage to classic elements one would consider very ‘Australian’.
Take swim and athleisure line, Bondi Bather for instance, the collection at MBFWA was inspired by the Bondi ocean, incorporating prints snapped by local photographer Shaun Tunny. In Australia, where going to the beach is akin to a national pastime, Bondi Bather markets itself on customers’ shared affinity for the beach.
Furthermore, the world’s dependence on fast-fashion has vastly shortened the fashion cycle, creating an almost insatiable demand for newness. Emerging designers are nimble, can have a high speed to market and are experimenting with their sales channels. Modern day consumers are shopping more frequently, and expect to see new drops each time they arrive in stores, and frequently online.
We’ve already seen a number of Australian designers take on a ‘see now, buy now’ or ‘see now, preorder’ approach at MBFWA with pre-season collections by Tome, Ginger & Smart and Yeojin Bae made available to shoppers just minutes after seeing them live-streamed down the runway. Other players such as They All Hates Us have opted for a sound social strategy and are reaping the rewards.
The record number of international buyers and industry influencers attending MBFWA is an indication that the world has read the memo. And there is an appetite for Australia’s design talent. The opportunity for Australian designers to enter other parts of the world is now more real than ever.
Their ability to present unique collections that evolve beyond conventional swimwear to include laid back transitional looks will no doubt propel Australian fashion designers to greater heights. As consumers it is now a waiting game to see which markets will be swift in stocking the presented resort collections. The lifestyle similarities between California and Australia make this an obvious first move. Our question lies with Asia. Will this be the industry that will help bridge the neighbouring regions?