Last week on a beautiful sunny day in Sydney I met with one of Australia’s most iconic fashion figures.
Retired, happy, busy and ever outspoken, Nicholas Huxley boasts what could be, not only one of the longest careers in the industry, but one whose influence has rippled out further than most.
Nicholas Huxley calls a spade a spade.
Ask him what he thinks about the Australian fashion industry and he’ll tell you. Straight.
He’s not one of the air-kissers.
Honest. Offensive at times in his truth. The driver of change with his honesty. The holder of hearts with his passion. Most importantly, a modern icon because he wrote his story, his way. You have to admire someone, anyone, who holds their truth and delivers it in the face of adversity especially during an era of struggle.
Honesty is a rare commodity these days, and yet we are living in times which demand its presence more than ever.
At TAFE for 40 years, Nicholas taught many of Australia’s most successful designers. Zimmermann, Akira, Bianca Spender, Dion Lee, Christopher Esber just to name a few and at the start of his own fashion designing career, he was the first and only male designer CUE has ever employed.
His experience is unmatched, and his passion the same. He believes deeply in teaching the old fashioned process of fashion design and the importance of cutting and designing to create for the purpose of originality and uniqueness and of course, the obvious necessity of developing ones own aesthetic.
His students love him although some do describe him as harsh. He drives potential as a teacher should and must. He cares so deeply about this craft that he believes a temporary upset of equilibrium is sometimes necessary to crack open the raw talent, the unearthing of which is crucial to finding success.
His name is synonymous with talent. His colourful character does not endear him to everyone but those that love him, really love him.
Nicholas has been nominated for the Australian Fashion Laureate Awards nine times now. That’s right. You read correctly. Nine times.
He hasn’t won … yet.
So I thought I would bestow upon him a Label Ministry Award for greatness. For personality. For uniqueness. For dedication.
And for his significant, generous and unwavering contribution to an industry that has lost its way.
As I write this he is in Africa working with the Masai tribe helping their jewellery designers develop their capabilities. Earlier in the year he spent considerable time in Fiji helping their designers with collections and teaching commercial relevance.
In just a few weeks the Fashion Design Studio will bring out their graduating students collections once again for another year, and sadly, Nicholas won’t be there. If he were here, I can tell you categorically that he would be right there.
In the thick of it with the students backstage, yelling instructions like every other year, pushing them to reach their highest potential, before he would join the audience where he would sit proudly, drinking in every moment of their talent and sharing their hopeful dreams of fame and fortune. After the show, every single one of them would receive his undivided attention, congratulations, culminating with one of his big strong unforgettable bear hugs.
No matter what you think of Nicholas Huxley he has led many of Australia’s great fashion industry icons to success and he has shown the rest of us what the word “dedication” to an industry that we all love, really means.
I would like to offer Nicholas a heartfelt thank you, filled with gratitude, from the bottom of my heart, for all you have done.
Not an award perhaps … but maybe this is even better.
I don’t care if you’re outspoken and I don’t care that you speak the unwelcome truth at times.
If this industry is going to survive or dare I say … flourish …
We need more like you.
Again. Thank you.
What is your opinion of the Australian fashion industry?
I think it is a truly sad state of affairs. What was once a haven of innovation, creative fun and endless talent has turned into “run of the mill” predictability and commercial to the point of boredom.
I have been in the industry for so many years and I have witnessed a litany of very sad changes. I am afraid to say that “the Australian fashion industry is run by people who don’t deserve to be there in the main”.
What do you believe could change the industry for the better?
I think that designers have to become and stay, original.
This would give the buyers a choice of collections.
I also believe that prices should change. Drastically. We are charging too much money for really boring stuff.
What is your opinion of social media?
I consider it to be impacting extremely negatively on the fashion industry. Social media is the epitome of self indulgence. It provides the industry and all of its industry constituents and consumer participants with no substance or character.
Worst of all, the fashion industry which is built around creativity, no longer has the benefit of personal experience and tactile exposure.
Why do you think that so many young women in particular, are starting to look the same as each other?
It is an overflow of the current modern obsessions that we have with people like the Kardashian’s.
People are basically sheep and they just lazily follow what is being pushed at them and then call that style.
I often think when I go out, “do people look in the mirror before they leave the house? Other people are going to have to look at what you’re wearing all day!”.
I believe that people still care about fashion but cease to have any direction about distinctiveness and it is my opinion that individuality has gone out the window.
Whatever happened to “statement” dressing and looking and being an individual?
Whether your thing is prints, texture, layering, whatever, wear what is flattering and learn about what suits you.
You have taught Australia’s fashion greats. Who are some of them?
Dion Lee, Akira Isogawa, Alex Perry, Romance was Born, Michelle Jank, Gary Bigeni, Christopher Esber, Marnie Skillings, Sonia Hopkins, Bianca Spender, Wayne Cooper, Kim Dieters, Guy Hastie, Spencer Webber, Anna Quan …
What is your opinion of the Runway?
It is one of the most crucial elements to assure the success of designers and industry alike.
The catwalk is essential to appreciate the way in which the clothes move, the drapery, construction, and aesthetic. It is the platform upon which the collections and their masters are presented to the world and it has never been more important than now.
What is your opinion of the “influencer”?
I am very cynical about the influencer.
To work in this industry you need to be able to “talk the talk”, not just pretend that you do. Many seasoned professionals in the industry get very upset to be sat rows behind the FROW at Fashion Week because cricketers or footballers are regarded as more important, and I don’t blame them. The Australian industry is terribly small and the professionals work hard to make significant contributions to the industry’s success. It is a great shame that they are not appreciated or paid the respect they should be.
People do regard you as controversial don’t they?
Yes. I suppose they do. I’m Aquarian. I believe that rules are made to be broken. I know the other side. I believe in people’s hopes and daydreams. I don’t subscribe to bullshit. I call reality as I see it.
You say what a lot of people are thinking. You have the courage to say it the way it is …
Yes. I do. People think I am outspoken and I am. I make noise about the things which upset me and I don’t care if it causes ripples. I acknowledge that. But I do it, because I care. I care so deeply, and I am the ultimate free spirit.
What’s next in this fashion life of yours?
I am off to Africa to work with the Masai tribe to develop their wonderful talents in jewellery designing … and I simply can’t wait.
Until next time,