One of Benjamin Garg's designs. Photography Alex Johnstone

young designers reflect on their first fashion week show

Meet the four young designers who showcased collections at this year's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia.

by John Buckley
28 May 2019, 7:20am

One of Benjamin Garg's designs. Photography Alex Johnstone

This year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia featured a schedule that was lighter than usual, with notable absences from established designers who opted to show overseas instead. But rather than lament the loss, the industry instead turned its attention on young and emerging Australian talent. Each year, the St. George NextGen show brings together a handful of young designers looking to break into the industry, with this year’s iteration offering up four of Australia’s most promising talents. We saw Madison Hislop’s romantic take on the deconstruction of feminist power suiting; Benjamin Garg’s transportive fusion of Kota Dorian techniques and contemporary shapes; Brian Huynh’s vision for self-actualised suiting, and Chloe Mottau’s multifaceted celebration of all things knitwear.

Each of the collections suggested that there’s plenty to be excited about here on home turf. It seems that no longer do our young designers feel their geographical isolation as a disadvantage, but instead, a point of difference. Australia’s seclusion has become a springboard for a unique perspective on the role of visual language and global trends within an increasingly diversifying Australian culture, and the way that culture contributes to the fashion conversation at large. Backstage, in the afterglow of their just finished runway presentation, i-D caught up with all four young designers to learn more about their collections and what’s next.

Benjamin Garg

Benjamin Garg

What is the Benjamin Garg mission statement?
For me, it’s just helping sustaining hand craft, and giving a voice within fashion. Making something which is as wearable as it is avant garde. I just want to give hand craft a new chic look.

How would you describe your collections to those who are unfamiliar?
You can feel the clothes dancing, and you can hear them too! There’s audio in there. The look is very emotional. You can connect with the clothes; with their belonging, and with their heritage. This fabric is called Kota Doria. And it comes from a place called Kota, and the colours and music are also inspired by the surroundings of Kota.

What shapes your work and world?
Fabrics, especially hand woven. I think it’s quite unique when fabrics are hand woven. The surroundings of the fabrics really impact the fabrics. And I think at the moment, the Kota Dorian fabrics are perfect for Australian weather.

The future of Australian fashion is…

Maddison Hislop

Madison Hislop

What is the Madison Hislop mission statement?
I’m about creating clothing that allows you to be sensitive and strong. It’s really all about the textiles. They are emotional and all about creating powerful silhouettes.

How would you describe your collections to those who are unfamiliar?
I think it’s about being emotional, and finding strength in that. It really is a romantically feminine brand, and it’s all about the materials and natural fibres, while feeling comfortable in the clothing.

Backstage as Maddison Hislop's designs hit the runway.

What shapes your work and your world?
I’m really interested in the way that we relate to materials, and the way that we inject our memories and emotions into clothing. Like, why that raggedy old jumper is important to you? For me, it’s about creating clothing which we can build memories around, and look at sentimentally.

If we were to take one thing away from the collection, what would you want it to be?
Don’t be afraid to be emotional. For me, this collection began with a breakup, and I couldn’t have been more of a little girl about it. But I just thought I’d work with what was in my life at the time.

The future of Australian fashion is…
Young and ready for change.

Brian Huynh

MNDATORY (designer Brian Huynh)

What is the MNDATORY mission statement?
Our focus is to combine contemporary ideas with classic silhouettes. So there’s a large emphasis on high quality fabrics and finishes, which we hope will give an alternative perspective on menswear.

How would you describe your brand to those who are unfamiliar?
It’s based on merging the new and the old, and for us, really, it’s all about self-actualisation. From the fabrication, to the garment, to the end user. We just want anyone who buys into the brand to be able to wear it their own way, and style it as they please.

A model wearing MNDATORY backstage.

What shapes your work and your world?
Self-actualisation, really. My design philosophy is really inspired by the architect Louis Kahn. So he has this infamous “conversation with the brick,” which he’d often discuss in lectures with his students. It would go something along the lines of, “Brick, what do you want to be?” And the brick would then say, “I want to be an arch.” So the point of that, is that he’s saying that all materials — or in my case, fabrics — have a desire to be something, or an intrinsic willingness to be an arch, or to be a coat. So I always start with the fabric first, and that influences the design. As opposed to the other way around.

If we were to take one thing away from the collection, what would you want it to be?
This collection was titled chameleon, and is based off a new business model that we’re working off at the moment – we’re calling it “Co-creation”. So essentially, everything that went down the runway can be customised and personalised by consumers, and made to order.

The future of Australian fashion is…
Deconstructed tailoring.

Chloe Mottau

Chloe Mottau

What is the Chloe Mottau mission statement?
I just want to make garments that are fun, personal, and beautiful; all while celebrating the wearer and the maker.

How would you describe your brand to those who are unfamiliar?
Definitely textile-based. Essentially it’s an investigation into knitwear and wovens, and collage.

What shapes your work and your world?
For this collection I started off looking at data and collage. So I started just looking at their ethos, which was all about challenging the familiar. It was always this reawakening by altering reality. And I always liked that idea, so I sort of ran with the whole collage thing by just turning out textile samples, which led to a sort of mish-mash of different colours and fabrications.

A model wears one of Chloe Mottau's designs backstage.

If we were to take one thing away from the collection, what would you want it to be?
I think my collection really is a celebration fabrics, and textiles, and colour, and that sort of thing. So I would love people to leave being excited, and a bit bold in what they do and wear, and the way they think about clothes.

The future of Australian fashion is…


Photography Alex Johnstone

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia
emerging designers