could this be the rebirth of australian fashion week?
Sydney's proposed return to resort for 2016 is a smart move given fashion’s ever increasing speed...even from the perspective of Suzy Menkes.
Kym Ellery's 2015 MBFW show. Photography Lucas Dawson.
Last month it was announced that Australian Fashion Week would shift its focus to showcase resort collections as opposed to the spring/summer ranges of local designers as it's typically been. When Suzy Menkes was in Sydney recently, the influential fashion critic touched upon the fact that the plan to take the country's key festival in a new direction was a positive move. In conversation with designer Collette Dinnigan, the two industry veterans discussed the fact that - aside from perhaps a coat here or there - many collections seem to have become indistinct from one another. Is it autumn/winter? Is it spring/summer? Perhaps it's resort? This is a trend that's been particularly pronounced at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia (MBFWA); an industry showcase that has been struggling to define itself for some time now. From shifting the schedule (originally from May to April and now back to May again) to changing up sponsors from Rosemount wine to Mercedes Benz, it is fair to say that our fashion week has had plenty of people confused over recent years. But as of May 2016, the event will finally be given a new lease on life; one that makes a lot more sense overall and one that will make it much more relevant within the international fashion calendar.
Globally, the resort collections usually kick off in May, so this new approach will mean our Australian fashion week is perfectly poised within the existing structure. While MBFWA has traditionally been a showcase for the spring/summer collections, the problem is that not everyone actually sticks to this. More and more, designers have been opting to present their resort, or even autumn/winter collections instead. A streamlined focus on resort, then, will not only make things much more cohesive, it will also ensure that the event maintains an advantage, seasonally speaking. This is not just in terms of the buying calendar locally, either, but also in the context of an international retail environment. Unfortunately, the ever-increasing speed of fashion has meant that designers now have less time on their hands than ever before. So, those at the helm of the major ateliers are today forced to churn out six collections every year, as opposed to the original two. This was a major factor contributing to Raf Simons' shock departure from Christian Dior last month and is also a strain felt throughout all sectors of the industry. In a recent interview with System Magazine, Simons explained to Cathy Horyn that: "When you do six shows a year, there's not enough time for the whole process. Technically, yes - the people who make the samples, do the stitching, they can do it. But you have no incubation time for ideas, and incubation time is very important." Menkes herself described this as a sign that "fashion is crashing." Writing on behalf of Vogue, she said that Simons circa Dior had yearned for a time when he could afford to attend the Venice Biennale for inspiration sake. "I really miss it," the designer told Menkes. "But the schedules are so tight now with another show in December. Just a terrible agenda."
Such is the breakneck nature of fashion's speed these days. And it presents a major problem for Mercedes Benz Australian Fashion Week, especially, given that we are located so far away from the other fashion capitals. The April scheduling of recent years has simply been too close to the Northern Hemisphere's autumn-winter shows, meaning that many international media and buyers are simply too hard-pressed to attend the Sydney shows as well. And if they are unable to attend, then the level of international exposure becomes seriously thwarted. This effect is only further compounded by the fact that so many homegrown designers are increasingly being invited to present at fashion weeks overseas. Kym Ellery, for example, is now part of the official schedule for Paris Fashion Week, for which ready-to-wear alone is held every March and September. The result is that designers like Ellery either don't have the time to present at MBFWA at all, or they are forced to show the same collection twice - which, because of timing, usually works out to our detriment. Not only does this devalue the credibility of MBFWA as an international event, but it's also a shame for those attending the shows; most of who have already seen all of the looks online.
Sydney's return to resort couldn't have come at a more perfect time, then. Looking back at it, recent years have seen a marked rise in the significance of the pre-collection - collections which tend to offer a more accessible entry point into the world of a brand. Designers Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin, behind New York-based Australian label Tome, for example, have said before that pre-fall and resort both represent a more relaxed side of their brand. These are the ranges that tend to comprise of timeless basics and a more pared-back aesthetic overall. So it's perhaps for this reason that resort has become a season so synonymous with Australian fashion generally. Not only are they ideally geared towards Sydney's temperate climate, but these collections also represent a more relaxed approach to dressing - one that feels very much in line with the Australian lifestyle. So with MBFWA's new May date and a renewed focus geared towards resort, the event will finally have the chance to shine internationally. Local designers will be given the incentive (and the breathing space) to unveil their resort lines on local soil and the shift in scheduling should also serve to attract greater numbers of influential media and buyers from overseas. This, in turn, will lead to greater exposure for our homegrown designers and also a chance to establish Australia as a reputable fashion destination. Overall then, the future looks bright for local fashion.
Text Rosie Dalton
Photography Lucas Dawson