April 2006

Arts & Letters

Mercedes Australian Fashion Week

By Clare Barker

On 26 April, the eleventh Mercedes Australian Fashion Week will open in Sydney, complete with shiny new operators IMG Fashion – the slick outfit that runs the bigger, better New York equivalent and has Kate Moss on its books – and industry insiders will commence their annual bitch-fest about how undercooked so much of it is.

The omissions! (Akira Isogawa will do his bit for his adopted country, but many of the big guns are staying away: Sass & Bide, Willow, Scanlan & Theodore, Collette Dinnigan.) The amateurism! (In the absence of the grand fashion houses that are the norm in Paris and Milan, a disproportionate number of Australian fashion graduates go out on their own, without apprenticeship.) The theatrics! (The 169 rats unleashed by Sydney it-boys Tsubi in 2001 were the tip of the iceberg; everything from Afghan hounds to midgets in lederhosen has been used since.) The plagiarism! (There hasn’t been a year without an entire collection ‘inspired by’ the European catwalks; last year one designer delivered a show that was shamefully reminiscent of Viktor & Rolf’s ‘Flowerbomb’ collection seen in Paris three months earlier).

But look hard at the premier event on the Australian fashion calendar and there is plenty to be hopeful about. While the papers stay busy printing pap-shots of soap stars and weather girls B-listing their way through the after-parties, buyers from boutiques and department stores, domestic and international, will be quietly placing orders for Spring–Summer 06–07, while young design stars – Josh Goot, Camilla and Marc, Marnie Skillings – continue to rise.

Ours is a young industry that supports young designers – hiccups, theatrics and all. Sydney is in a different league to Paris and Milan. We need to stop lamenting the lack of local equivalents to Chanel, Balenciagia, Gucci and Rochas. While it’s tempting to hate your husband for not being George Clooney, it’s better to try to love him for who he is.

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