A couple of years ago, I was sitting front row at the Fashion Design Studio‘s graduate runway as I do each and every year. It is my yearly gift to FDS that I write an article about the emerging designers who most stand out for me and to support the incredible contribution and long list of enormously successful designers which have called FDS their home. Continue Reading…
Well, I’ve just had my birthday and that always means one thing … Fashion Week is over.
This year Sydney Fashion Week was a completely different experience for its devotees, as many less than positive media articles have already touched on. An event usually well patronised, it was unusually quiet and I have to agree that it wasn’t the well oiled machine of times past. But I think we can all agree we are in changing times aren’t we and as such, are collectively witnessing phenomenal transformations.
The absolute highlight this year was the Aqua Blu show; always a hit in the eyes of the media worldwide, but this year even more so.
For me, the Aqua Blu show rocked for a totally different and very personal reason.
You’ll notice the title of this article. FROW TO RUNWAY … My Journey.
Let me explain. Usually, I get to hang out in the front row …
So here we are again.
Fashion Week 2019.
It started with a bang last night at the AJE show which opened the week and which all fashionistas and industry heavy-weights wait for.
My fashion family are around me again. Simply. Excitement and hugs all ’round.
Day 1 this year is the day ‘The Innovators’, the FDS Alumni get to show Australian fashion devotees what they are truly capable of, not to mention the direction in which our beloved industry is travelling.
I am always in awe of the talent which struts that runway and this year will be no different. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that we are in for something really special.
I literally can’t wait to grace the FROW. I don’t always get to sit in the FROW and I am totally happy with that. I feel privileged to be able to attend any of the shows and feel blessed to be seated at all.
Sitting in the front row however at The Innovators show is an essential, because it is from this vantage point that I and many others can truly appreciate the blood, sweat and tears which have been spilled over these intricate and varied collections. Every detail, stitch, and beads of anxious perspiration that has baptised every, single, piece.
For these young designers, Fashion Week is EVERYTHING.
It is their introduction to playing with the Big Kids on the Block, and I should imagine it has its bloody scary moments.
I sat down and had a chat with Alex Zehntner, Senior Design Lecturer, followed by some insights of some of the designers who will be showing this year.
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Senior Design Lecturer, person extraordinaire, lover of style, and creative mentor to Fashion Design Studio is utterly dedicated to the legacy we create for Australian emerging fashion designers.
We caught up this morning and he shared his thoughts about why FDS churns out the most fabulous talent, time and again, each and every year filling our fashion minds with respect and our fashion hearts with joy.
“All our full time staff have been with the school for over a decade, and have exceptional hands-on skills in all areas. We also work closely and carefully with industry experts who act as guest lecturers in their areas of speciality. Also, our part time teachers are currently working in the Australian fashion industry.
We are committed to teaching our students the importance of conceptual and original thinking. To understand the crucial and full aspects of the design process is key – from inception through to completion. There is enormous focus on traditional hand skills such as bespoke tailoring, couture hand finishing, menswear and sportswear, textile printing and surface design.
All students must be committed to building and successfully developing strong skills in all areas of fashion, fashion design, the history of fashion and its evolution, pattern cutting, drawing, textile and CAD design as well as business acumen.
This is done extensively and students dedicate hours to each subject. They must be deemed competent in order to pass each subject allowing them opportunity to continue on with the course.
Once they have completed two very intense years they are required to focus on a third year, culminating in their fashion design degree. This final year is filled with notions of collaborations and sustainability and this is infused consistently throughout the course. Also, in this final year, the students are guided through the global fashion industry and introduced to local and international artisans and contacts to create their final collections.
We already have a fabulous vehicle to showcase the seemingly never-ending talent that is FDS, but we need the industry itself to support emerging designers through financial grants, government interest and funding. A general nurturing and support from Australian industry platforms at large is necessary.
It is our greatest desire to see this sector grow so that we are able to provide the proper legacy for this country’s future fashion designers; something so many who have gone before, have been able to take for granted”.
Alex Zehntner – Senior Lecturer, Fashion Design Studio.
Sarah Moore – MANON
I began my career in nutrition after studying Health Science straight out of school, however I felt that something was missing from my life. After a period of reflection I decided follow my passion for beautiful, interesting and unusual fashion and become a fashion designer.
My short term plan was to work for a label so I could gain some insights into the industry and how it works. Now that I have completed fashion design I dream of having my own label and potentially working away from Sydney.
My label, MANON possesses a dark and moody tone. It sits in alignment with my desire to finding beauty in the duality and darker things in life.
I am drawn to monochromatic looks and garments which promote the layering of texture versus colour.
My choice in using limited colours forces me to broaden my aesthetic through the mastering of patterning and textile manipulations. Establishing the “signature” of my brand was the easiest part, and it is deeply linked in with my true nature and aspirations. My process is always developed around the particular mood and feeling that I want to convey and is always represented in the mixed media images which I create.
The target age for my brand is for women between 25-40 as I feel there is a significant gap in the market for this demographic. I focus on sustainability in my design process and this allows me to create garments which are “forever wearable”. I pay attention to utilising subtraction cutting methods which importantly reduce fabric wastage and wherever possible I include locally sourced natural fibres. FDS is not for the faint hearted. The course is tough and full-on, but I have left with enormously strong skills. I am extremely grateful for the wealth of knowledge which I can now confidently build my fashion future on.
It’s very easy to learn to sew, design and create, but to take all this to a further level, requires an immense amount of well, sacrifice.
To manifest the dream of fashion week, every waking second must be devoted to the cause. For me being mentally prepared and strong is a very important aspect. Sitting in four walls, most days, can take its toll. Having systems in place to stay focused and motivated is important. Ted-Talks, fashion documentaries and fashion movies have kept me inspired. Strong support systems, family and my teachers at college with whom I could be open and honest were key.
Studying, FDS industry night, and now Fashion Week. My biggest anxiety was being able to juggle everything. I was never concerned about my skill of sewing, cutting or construction. I work 3-4 days in the industry and am blessed to have a brilliant team of hand sewers who did help me with hand work and embellishments.
Australian born to Lebanese parents, provided the combination of two very different cultures and has allowed me to break the mould of couture in Australian fashion. The excess and luxury of middle eastern fashion flows through my collections and my label is totally made in Australia.
This years collection “Azrael” is a narrative based on women and mental and emotional trauma. My demographic is women who have an appreciation for quality, handmade and intricately detailed garments. Couture is a very detailed, precise and tactile form of construction.
I’ve always loved the notion of a “Couture Maison”. To create an empire, home based to live, work, and meet clients is my dream.
One of the few things that the Australian fashion platform is missing, is support.
Label Ministry and other similar platforms are a fundamental cog in the fashion machine. It is so important that there are people writing about designers, getting to know who they are, what they do, and how they get to the point of creating a collection.
I find that Australian fashion has long been extremely commercialised; the sad reality is that designers that once made it due to their innovation and creativity are slowing acquiescing to the demands of what sells.
Mia Rodriguez – Mi’an’Mar
I’ve literally always wanted to be a fashion designer – right down to my early days in kindergarten where we asked to draw what we wanted to be. Mine said. Mia – Fashion Designer.
It means a great deal to be involved in Fashion Week. Long, long nights and hard work have paid off.
The opportunity is something I have been working towards for the last three years of my fashion life. I hope that literally everyone loves my collection.
Building dreams of a career in fashion is not an easy thing to accomplish and it is platforms like Label Ministry which help us to gain confidence in our careers, bringing publicity and attention through the coverage of our journeys, and to instil the importance in our minds of working hard and understanding that this equals success.
I have enormous confidence in my designs as I alone know, how much work goes into them. Naturally I hope that the industry at large will see this too. The fashion world is so hectic, but it is really a buzz to see everyone gathering around a runway to see what I have been designing and creating.
I’ve had a blast at FDS and looking back on it I have experienced such amazing moments. Our buying trip to China and India with our incredible design teacher, and then on to Paris and London for couture. Now Fashion Week! It’s so incredible.
I think the teachers at Fashion Design Studio … ROCK!
They care so much and they really push for all of us to succeed and excel!
In the lyrics of a song I liked, I remember the words … “He is not fancy; he just wears black”.
This epitomised the underlying basis of my brand aesthetic and largely formed the reason I use so much colour.
I think it’s fun to be bold and to be seen! You only live once so why go under the radar?
I use illustrations for all my garments and I firmly believe the inside should be just as important as the outside. If you look inside of any of my garments you’ll see hand drawn printed linings that tell a story.
I think, being a part of the fashion industry it’s so hard not to compare your designs and style to others, but I think my most brilliant moment was realising that there is no point comparing and now I can really embrace myself, my aesthetic and joyfully, my fashion future.
Mi’an’Mar … stands on its own.
Ineson’s aesthetic is refined, sophisticated, deconstructed, with a focus on tailoring, feminine draping and silhouettes designed to flatter the body.
The label, while highly conceptual, is firmly focused on remaining wearable and long lasting. It is designed for women of all ages, not trend focused.
Ineson almost exclusively used natural fibres.
I am ethically aware, and where I have outsourced labour, it has been done in Australia and a fair wage has always been paid.
Once the label goes into production, I would need to produce overseas however I would strive to always seek ethical options.
I studied and continue to explore traditional and unique pattern making methods. My collection merges these processes and expands upon them. This experimental approach creates the innovative silhouettes and details that Ineson strongly identifies with.
I think my passion and skill in pattern making is what sets me apart. My design process is mainly pattern making. I am not a designer who can design through illustration – I design as I drape and pattern make.
The textiles for this collection are inspired by Kylie Minogue’s music video, Slow, a pop-culture reference rich with elements which draw inspiration from a Barcelona skyline, rippling waters, and sunbathers upon pool tiles.
I chose to study at FDS because of their incredible Alumni.
The intensity and fast pace of the course means that only the students with passion and talent are successful.
Meet the designers here |
Until next time,
Tonight, I had the pleasure of attending the Fashion Design Studio’s 2018 annual graduate runway.
The eagerly awaited fashion spectacle which showcases the most celebrated of their students. The outstanding and often times breathtaking talent is awe inspiring and one must always remember that we are, in that very moment, bearing witness to those who will be the future heroes of the Australian fashion industry.
May I open with this.
Fashion design is not for the faint hearted.
As many of you will already know, in August of this year I travelled to Auckland, New Zealand to work on the Heaven Swimwear show.
As a show producer, fashion editor and stylist I was privileged to bring on board for this event, the beautiful Imogen Anthony who walked for the show. The first time ever that an Australian swimwear label has shown in NZ.
And walk she did.
Like a boss.
And … mustn’t forget the gorgeous boys!
This article however is to celebrate the designer behind this ever growing label Heaven who has now stepped in to some very large shoes after the Creative Director of Oz Swim Group, Kristian Chase has decided to concentrate solely on designing the globally acclaimed sister label Aqua Blu.
Enter Stephanie Cunningham …
Stephanie Cunningham started her Fashion Design degree in 2008 at Whitehouse. Starting with sixty in the course, it soon reduced to twenty five. Right from her point of graduation, Stephanie went straight to Hussy as an intern and describes this as most fortuitous as it pushed her into the industry straight away. They produced womens clothing, shoes and accessories. From there she went into a hands-on-role in sampling and designing for a girl who started a formal wear label. From there. she moved across to a label which produced a maternity line. As strange as that seems it gave Stephanie three solid years of well rounded and invaluable experience. As the fabrics were all stretch it provided Stephanie with the knowledge and all she needed to know about creating fashion “with a bump”. During this time, the label opened a physical store, so Stephanie learned to interact with customers to find out exactly what they wanted. After that she went to bridal wear, again dealing directly with customers which allowed her to see the design process right through from start to finish. She then started to design for herself and finally moved across into swimwear.
What is the only aesthetic you haven’t worked on so far?
Probably, denim …
In your experience, what does the customer want?
The customer wants “the familiar” but not something that has been done before. For example, women love the crop top but my job is not just to re-create the crop top. It is to take the popular item and add fresh, new elements to create a new masterpiece.
In my mind, this is the problem with Instagram brands who churn out the same thing. I think the design element is missing and does not consider what the customer wants.
What is your opinion of social media?
I love social media and as the same time, I hate social media.
People who follow Instagram closely seem to take so much notice of the influencers but some of the brands saturate Instagram so much with the same material that there is a real pressure for everyone to look the same.
Heaven has strongly pushed the view forward that our customers do not have to look like everyone else. I think we are helping people to realise that they don’t have to look like they are all the same and that in reality, colour and individuality speak volumes.
Why do you think people who follow Instagram feel like it’s important to look the same?
I think it’s because of the celebrity culture, and everyone is desperate to fit in.
Slightly older groups have the opinion that they don’t want to be the same, but the younger demographic does not know anything different and therefore, don’t have the confidence to be completely individual.
We are seeing lately a translation of older designs, and the revival culture is huge which really equals a trend. To me, this proves that we are not completely innovating as much as we could, and this is why we try to be as creative as we can at Heaven to fill in those fashion and social gaps.
What is your opinion of the influencer?
In some ways I think that the influencer is unnecessary due to the the constant saturation of that one person and one general style.
On the other hand, I feel that it can work well, as long as the influencer translates specifically to the brand that they are aligned with.
There is an obsessive tendency around the culture of Instagram and influencers, so I would prefer to see “quality over quantity”. The exposure should be about the brand, not the influencer.
The saturation point has reached an all time high and over exposure can reverse the benefits to a brand.
At Heaven we are extremely careful to research the value of the influencer to make sure that it is right for our brand and not just an avenue to provide the influencer with free content.
What is your opinion of paid posts on Instagram?
In my opinion that would be need to be attached to specific strategy and my feeling is many Instagram brands are fleeting and this is the reason why.
What do you think about influencers sitting in the FROW at events?
I think the same strategy applies, and for my brand it is important that loyalty for our customers is paramount.
The industry people who attend our shows actually bring something to the event, the industry, the brand and its culture. They are not just there for the selfies.
It is the difference between having a brand that has the real world aspects; bricks and mortar office space, staff, sewing rooms, etc and the desire to be globally successful and recognised. Very different to some of todays “Instagram” brands.
What keeps the Heaven brand so well patronised and popular is the attention you pay to your customers and quite simply the quality. Would you agree?
Yes. We work hard at those aspects and they have always been at the pinnacle of our brand motivation.
I was reading an article the other day about the huge problem of things being worn, and then returned in massive numbers via online shopping portals. What is your view about this problem?
I think it comes back to the same old problem that we can’t see, feel and try the garment and therefore our motivation becomes purchasing for the instant adrenalin rush of something new, the Instagram post and the ultimate “like”. It is no longer about the garment, but more so about the moment.
Where do you see the future of Heaven?
Well, quite literally at the moment? … the sky’s the limit.
Funny about that … it is after all called Heaven 🙂
Model Extraordinaire | Imogen Anthony
Imogen’s Team | JayMillionaires
Photography | Thanks to Fiona Goodall of Getty Images for the photographs.
Check out the beautiful, luxurious garments by Heaven.
Follow them on Instagram.
Until next time,
Fashion Week is always special. And strangely, always, each and every year, in a different way.
For me, arriving there one year since the last time felt strange. So much has happened in one year, and quite literally months of my life had been devoted to a very important project, both for myself and for the Australian fashion industry. Those of you who know me, and now there are many, you will know that that project was none other than the Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom Runway, held in April of this year. I was thrilled to be able to work with, encourage, and develop the designers with whom I was so closely aligned on this project, as well as developing the concept in this country of working with international big guns who see benefit in fashion collaboration. This has long been my vision and I hope to see much more of it in the future.
In the coming weeks, I will be sharing some editorial work from teams who attended, supported and wrote about the recent Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom runway event made possible by the Universal franchise in Australia. Continue Reading…
Welcome to Hump Day at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Traditionally, Wednesday is the day where the emerging talent hits the runway. They usually do it with incredible impact, and trust me when I tell you, this year will be one of their best. The Innovators are a group of young, full-hearted fashion fledglings who know nothing other than the sheer passion which drives their creative process and is the fuel upon which their dreamy aspirations rely. They are the most recent fashion graduates of FDS, the acronym for Fashion Design Studio, Ultimo TAFE. It is the eponymous fashion school of excellence which is quite simply, now, and historically, the birth place of so many of Australia’s incredible designers. It has been fashion home, until his recent departure to pursue other incredible fashion endeavours, of the infamous Nicholas Huxley, about whom I will report in the coming months and whom I am privileged to know and share fabulous and funny fashion tales. Sophie Drysdale, Alex Zehntner and Laura Washington, and Kam …. quite literally move mountains with their passion, dedication and experience. FDS is, and always has been a whole lotta fabulousness all in one place, and this fabulousness is quite literally transferred to all the students who have the good fortune to walk through their doors.
So, Camilla and Marc opened Australian Fashion Week tonight in tandem celebration with their 15th Anniversary, with an incredible show!
Well, of course it was incredible … it was Camilla and Marc!!! What more would one expect?
I loved the feeling of this show. Firstly, it was reminiscent of times past as it was held at the iconic Sydney space, The Royal Hall of Industries at Moore Park.
I was so delighted to see this gorgeous collection … beautiful brocades in pale palettes graced the runway followed by the re-invention of traditional power suiting. I think I even detected some shoulder pads, matched in strength by the oversized double breasted jacket in various checks with very lengthy arms. A little impractical you might say … but bloody fantastic on the runway! Continue Reading…
On 11 April 2018, Universal Brand Development executed a sensational Australian fashion industry coup. In collaboration with Jade Cosgrove of Label Ministry, the entertainment giant staged the first ever film-fashion runway event to take place in Australia.
It was a meeting of,
Well … dinosaurs really … life size ones at that; and the biggest movie studio in the world collaborating with seven incredible Australian designers.
Yeah. That’s all.
The story goes like this …
The glamorous invitation-only event was a night to remember, as “Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom” came alive on the runway at Australian Technology Park, showcasing seven of Australia’s most talented designers who unleashed their Jurassic inspired collections. Continue Reading…