• Anne Heaney, Director

Sydney's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week ups the ante

With a myriad of sponsorships and collaborations, a mixture of fashion heavyweights and newcomers, Sydney's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia (MBFWA) set the scene for a week that stands alongside the most famous runways of international fashion events. Has Australia's fashion industry entered a new era in terms of competing in a global market?

While e-commerce has certainly made a dent in the global fashion market, Australia's challenges are unique.

An increase in online sales has also threatened bricks and mortar retail. Some local designers have no longer been able to pay the exorbitant cost of commercial rent which, in Australia, is also among the most expensive in the world. Thus, their ability to constantly be in the eye of the local consumer is hindered.

Australian designers also need to appeal to both the Northern and Southern hemispheres with many a designer adopting a transeasonal approach to their collections, all the while having to meet the demands of the consumer versus maintaining an unfiltered brand aesthetic.

With an international audience in mind, local designers who featured their collections at this Fashion Week also partook in business savvy initiatives, such as long-term collaborations, to widen their reach.

For example, this year's Fashion Week lead-up began on a runway - an actual airport runway, with two models sporting garments from local talent Romance Was Born, posing elegantly against the backdrop of an Etihad Airways as part of their Runway to Runway program.

Following Fashion Week, Etihad Airways will support Romance Was Born with its international expansion in Paris where the brand plans to present its first collection during Couture Fashion Week.

Others added a strong dose of theatricality to their presentations to create content designed to be seen by international media, buyers and retailers, along with millions of fashion fans around the world.

In this vein, there were several notable stand-outs. Fashion veterans Camilla and Marc celebrated their 15th anniversary by transporting guests to the Australian outback, using 60 tonnes of shipped-in sand and rock formations that dotted a 120-metre runway to showcase their conceptual yet futuristic collection.

Double Rainbouu commandeered the Lansdowne Hotel, where Nineties grunge band Nirvana once performed, to showcase Synth Suave - a surfy and psyche urban wear collection which took their brand from printed Hawaiian tees to ready for the runway.

The final "a-ha" moment came in the form of Camilla Franks who closed proceedings with an exotic ready-to-wear collection, presenting to the tune of a Japanese fantasy spiked with trademark prints that are already popular among a slew of international models and Beyoncé.

Their concerted efforts appear to be paying off. International buyers have found that the laid-back aesthetic of Australian designers appeals to the international consumer.

“We look to Australian designers for their fresh take on of-the-moment trends in a wearable and modern aesthetic. Our customers love this effortless and unique approach,” says Kate Johanson, Shopbop Associate Fashion Director.

So while the environment looks promising, the future of Australian fashion ultimately still rests in the hands of the international consumer.

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