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Australian Designer, Australian Fashion, Australian Fashion Industry, Events

The Innovators MBFWA 2018

May 16

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.

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Aussie Fashion, Australian Designer, Australian Fashion, Australian Fashion Industry, Editorial, Events, MBFWA

Camilla and Marc Day #1 MBFWA 2018

May 13

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…

Aussie Fashion, Australian Designer, Australian Fashion, Australian Fashion Industry, Editorial, Events, MBFWA, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2018

The Innovators

May 17

For those who embrace rebellion and eccentricity every day.

Angela Lowe, EWOL

Fashion Design Studio, TAFE NSW Ultimo, is the home of many famous people.

If you wait for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week every year with the highest anticipation then welcome to my world.

If fashion is your thing you’re in the right place.

If emerging talent is your passion, then let me personally thank you, because your love is much appreciated.

By oh! soooo many!

This is the story of “The Innovators”.

Graduates of Fashion Design Studio.

Where Sydney fashion design is concerned, FDS is the home and very solid bedrock of many iconic established Australian fashion labels … Dion Lee, Akira Isogawa, Christopher Esber, Gary Bigeni,  Nicky Zimmerman, and Bianca Spender to name a few.

It is a creative hub of design excellence, like no other.

Led by experienced, devoted, passionate, brilliant educators like the famous Nicholas Huxley, the wonderful Sophie Drysdale and Andrea Cainero, the walls are lined with the distinct flavour of adventures just begun.

And the fashion talent just keeps oozing out … Every. Single. Year.

Meet, “The Innovators” at this years Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2017.



Amelia’s work is a reflection of all her interests; the inspiration of which is to embrace the classic feminine aesthetic and to represent a new-age feminine ideal.  The collection is a combination of modernity and rebellion against traditional femininity. Internship at Zimmermann is where her specific interest in exceptional garment finishes and the perfect cut grew. Amelia was a winner in the World Square Fashion Illustration competition. During her final year of study, she collaborated with Vogue Australia and Witchery to create a piece for the ‘White Shirt Campaign’, in support of ovarian cancer. Recently pieces from her graduate collection appeared in the London-based ‘Schön’ magazine.

Meet Amelia Akle.


Angela Lowe’s, EWOL exists at the periphery of normality. Where male and female overlap to create an ‘other’. Atypical in its use of material, its references and inspirations … EWOL blurs the boundaries of streetwear and high fashion to create wearable art worn by risk-takers. Those who relish the stares and the double takes.

Drawing inspiration from the juxtaposition of conflicting ideas – conviction and humour; masculinity and femininity. EWOL is for individuals who identify with a movement against the norm. For those who embrace rebellion and eccentricity every day. There are so many incredible things that we do not see with the naked eye.

Meet Angela Lowe. Ewol by Angela Lowe on Instagram.


A secret application to study fashion design, encouraged by her best friend and partner was the start of beautiful beginnings. As a child, Ann was an avid sketcher and would often design outfits for friends and family. It was only after partially completing an economics degree that she decided fashion was her real passion. She had found her voice, so to speak. YouTube tutorials helped Ann to learn the basics, followed by an internship with House of Quirky, Dion Lee, and Manning Cartell. She is now working as a womenswear and menswear design assistant at The Upside, with plans to look overseas to further broaden her horizons and gain insight into international markets.

Meet Ann Xiao. AnxDesigns on Instagram.


Cassie Hewitt released her first collection in December 2016. She has formerly interned with Manning Cartell, Bianca Spender, Carla Zampatti and Sara Phillips. Cassie was a finalist for the Australian Fashion Foundation’s Annual Scholarship Program, where she presented her graduate collection to industry leaders. This year Cassie went on to win the Graduate of the Year Award for Fashion and Textiles at the Design Institute of Australia.

Each CASEA piece tells a story through vibrant signature prints, rich colours, intricate embellishment, craftsmanship and luxurious fabrics. CASEA challenges the misconception that fast fashion is sufficient if the price is “right”. The brand’s accentuation on quality and craftsmanship aims to create a world where the trend of expendable fashion is diminished and a high value is placed on heirloom and sentimental pieces.

Meet Cassie Hewitt. CASEA The Label on Instagram.


It took eighteen months for Emma Standon to identify her passion for designing swimwear and experimenting with bending the restricted rules of this fashion genre. Swimwear tends to be restricted in its ability to explore innovation in design, as functionality typically is the upmost priority.Fascinated by emerging technologies and the opportunities to explore innovative techniques in fashion design, Emma was especially interested by 3D printing. This was the spark which fuelled her interest in couture swimwear. This ideology, fused with underlining tones of sexual promiscuity and empowerment, became Handsy Swimwear.

Meet Emma Standon. Handsy Swimwear on Instagram.


Richard Giang is an Australian emerging fashion designer. Formerly an Architectural graduate at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), he decided to pursue his dream in the world of fashion. Richard’s designs are trans-seasonal, diverse, and wearable. Garments that evoke feelings of confidence, empowerment, sophistication and allure. His designs incorporate unique elements, techniques and textural fabrications that allow him to compromise and to create interesting aesthetic garments to suit all manner of occasions. Feminism and female empowerment are the foundations of his creativity, inspired by architecture, visual arts and Helmut Newton’s photography.

Meet Richard Giang. Richard Giang on Instagram.


Johanna Smith was originally a teacher working in an isolated
Aboriginal community in far west NSW.  Sheer isolation saw Johanna fall into a surreal entity of creative inspiration. The abstract arrangement of colour in outback Australia and the Aboriginal people became the embodiment, reference and muse of her label. The launch of YOHANA is infused with muddy hues and bold colour contrasts where obscure leather accents, cotton canvas and shirting are contrasted with lustrous texture.

Meet Johanna Smith. Yohana on Instagram.

Thank you to everyone who supports emerging Australian designers. They need your support, your interest, your passion, your encouragement, and your money. Please invest in their labels. Buy their product. Share the love by following their social media and …

LOVE Label Ministry on social, because the love starts here!

Until next time,

Jade xx

Coat Hanger Logo done in black on white in the style of chinese calligraphy and paint brushing style with the words Label Ministry placed in capital letters below it.

Australian Designer, Australian Fashion Industry, Editorial, Fashion Designer, Global Fashion Industry, Interview

Akira Isogawa

December 14


“A garment can transcend, giving it a soul.

I translate fabrics into soft and romantic silhouettes, using natural fabrics like silks and cottons, which are kind to the skin.

Distressing fabrics and alchemically treating them, gives the feeling of already ‘being loved’, thus evoking emotion. Even one-off fabrics found in flea markets can be given new life.

Richly embellished fabrics echo Eastern influences, and I have great respect for their traditions. Inspiration can be found from the past – re-using vintage textiles and sometimes creating replicas of them, incorporated with specific craftsmanship.

The number of hours someone has spent on manual work like this makes it priceless.

I see craftsmanship as an implement with which to realise one’s vision. Past, present and future; that slogan continues in almost everything around which my work evolves. Timeless beauty and femininity in my design is profound, in a way for the wearer to express their inner soul.”

Akira Isogawa

Akira Isogawa | Spring Summer 2017

Akira Isogawa | Spring Summer 2017


This week I was blessed. Truly blessed.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Akira Isogawa, one of Australia’s most loved and iconic fashion designers. I can’t tell you how exciting this was for me. As a younger woman, some moons ago, ok, many moons ago, I used to ooooh and aaaah over the most exquisite fabrics reminiscent of liquid silk, colours that adorned only my imagination, and garments so beautiful I was sometimes left breathless. For the many moons which have passed since, Akira has continued as the master that he is, creating one collection after another, with the same, if not a greater level of beauty and craftsmanship.

To me this man is a legend.

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Australian Fashion Industry, Editorial, Events, Fashion Designer

Raffles Graduate Runway 2016

December 12
Model on the runway wearing a white ruffled design by Ruth Read from Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway 2016.

Fashion is no longer just about ‘the garment’ …

Nick Comino

On Tuesday night Sydney’s Raffles College of Design took over Ambush Gallery in Chippendale for their graduate show 2016.

A huge open space, walls pulsating with tunes, matched with sheer adrenalin and anticipation running through the fashionista veins of this year’s graduating emerging fashion designers.

The charge in the air was tangible.

Each and every year, Australia welcomes a new group of emerging designers who hope to break into the Australian fashion industry. It is competitive, fiercely challenging and not for the feint hearted. The vast global arms of the international fashion industry at large and its devotees stand and wait with baited breath, beckoning those to live up to the industry standard. And in Australia, that bar is high. Very high. At least creatively.

Commercially our industry has suffered greatly through years of the ever changing climate of the digital age, struggling economic trends, and the inevitable rise of the “fast fashion” chains.

It has long been the case, for independent designers, that success is difficult to achieve and recognition difficult to attain. Support, government funding and financial backing are not as easy to come by as one might think.

I know it is the sentiment of myself and many others that the nurturing of our beloved industry back to its former glory days is a work in progress, for established designers and particularly for emerging talent.

I am pleased to report, I am really starting to see the tide turn.

Thankfully …

Enjoy xx

Backstage scene at the Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway 2016 at Ambush Gallery.

Backstage | Raffles Graduate Runway 2016 | Photography Jessica Fekonia

We habitually look at fashion as the spectacle and traditionally iconic.

Nick Comino

The space was filled with chatty, enthusiastic people who clearly loved anything creative.

This year, different to last, where the event was held at Carriageworks in a traditional runway setting.

2016 saw the graduate fashion designers share their space with other graduating Raffles students from Fashion Marketing, Photography, Interior Design, Graphic Design and Digital Media.

I had a long chat with Nick Comino, Raffles Program Director, who said, “this year we wanted to produce a show that encompassed everyone. We habitually look at fashion as the spectacle and traditionally iconic, so this year, we wanted to address things a little differently”.

He added, “even though a lot of the designers who have historically graduated from Raffles, may not have a label as such, the course offers them the opportunity to explore themselves and their own minds. Most find placement within the industry that we all love. Fashion is no longer just about the garment”.  

I also spoke to Betsabeh Sohrabi-Sabi.  The Assistant Program Director of Fashion and teacher of the course, Fashion Marketing. I asked her about how she felt about the contrast of her fashion marketing students showing alongside the runway of graduate emerging fashion designers; so different from the preceding year. She proudly showed me the work of her fashion marketing students; an essential wheel of course in the industry of fashion and the imperative and successful marketing of such.

Shortly after 7pm the lighting changed and the audible sighs of said fashionistas filled the room.

It was a full and excited house. The usual, wonderful suspects were there.  Fedora hats, latest cuffed chinos and expensive brogues, not to mention the ever present designer handbag. Sky high heels, with and without platform, and carefully curated outfits. One doesn’t like to stare … but sometimes you just can’t help it! Surprisingly, many of the girls sported flats … an ever increasing trend I have noticed during recent months and events. A spill over from fashion week this year, with an obvious hint of permanence. Thank God! That’s a trend I’m all for!

Amazing tailoring, creative skill, and sheer mastery of sewing and construction went to Ruth Read who was selected to participate in an exchange program in Milan, an experience that fortified her attention to detail and craftsmanship, leading her to becoming a finalist for Emerging Designer of the Year in the 2015 Australian Wool Awards. Read currently has an internship with Vogue Australia, and will be travelling to Milan next year to gain further experience and refine her artistry. She said, “The making of fashion garments allows me to explore deep levels of personal expression. My designs and making processes allow me to develop fashion forms that communicate a ‘breaking through’ emotion. The final garment becomes a point of balance between internal and external. An equilibrium of dark and light”.

Model on the runway wearing a white ruffled design by Ruth Read from Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway 2016.

Ruth Read | Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway 2016 | Photography Romualdo Nubla Studio MOR+


Model on the runway wearing a white ruffled design by Ruth Read from Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway 2016.

Ruth Read | Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway 2016 | Photography Romualdo Nubla Studio MOR+


Model on the runway wearing a white ruffled design by Ruth Read from Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway 2016.

Ruth Read | Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway 2016 | Photography Romualdo Nubla Studio MOR+


Model on the runway wearing a white ruffled design by Ruth Read from Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway 2016.

Ruth Read | Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway 2016 | Photography Romualdo Nubla Studio MOR+


Another standout in the designer line up for me was Alexandra Uyen Nguyen. A label for both men and women, I loved her use of black and white and the “Flintstone” feel of her geometric prints. The see-through top combined with cotton; very clever, and my other favourite, the oversized, off the shoulder top with big bold stripes. I thought the collection refreshing indeed. Her collection, ‘States of Mind’ was influenced by the work of ‘outsider’ artists like Yayoi Kusama. Through the use of repetitive prints and oversized silhouettes her work challenges the conventional social norms of fashion.

Model on the runway in a striped oversize top with white skirt with geometric pattern at the Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway 2016.

Designer | Alexandra | Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway 2016 | | Photography Romualdo Nubla Studio MOR+


In Hayley Kang’s collection, we saw the return of the classic sundress, a black and white maxi skirt teamed with an interestingly created crop top, and the use of blue and orange tones combined. Men’s suiting; a combination of pastels worked alongside plain grey, teamed with cropped drop crutch pants. I enjoyed the assymetrical skirts and her clever take on the geometrically patterned pea coat with “crayon effect”design. The use of fabric with self patterned spots, fringing and lattice work was inspiring. An altogether Alice McCall feel to me. Apparently, inspiration for the collection came from a traditional Korean folk tale about a masked dance, the purpose of which was to breathe courage into people, to break through the status quo and forego self-regulation.

Hayley Chang | Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway | Photography Romualdo Nubla Studio MOR+

Hayley Chang | Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway | Photography | Jessica Fekonia


Mary Quach … more black and white. In my opinion, always a winner on the runway and in life. I could see from very quick glimpses of her graduate collection that this young lady has the gift of design, sewing, and commercial ability. I loved the men’s cropped white trousers with a broad panel of fabric finishing off the hem. The gorgeous red coat with subtle stripe and hood, a traditional take on the duffle coat of old. Her women’s black pants shown with an interesting, wearable and textured top. Her collection to me had an almost industrial feel and laboratory driven design. I loved the details of lacing, the use of industrial climbing ropes, and gorgeous khaki sensibility. Her collection embodied fashion in an era of political subterfuge and dysfunction. A collection directly influenced by the Japanese film ‘Akira’ and its dystopian vision, coupled with the aesthetic influences of the constructivist design movement of the Russian revolution. 

Alyce Chen’s beautiful cornflower blue leather dress was a standout also. A truly beautiful, wearable creation which I personally would like to see more of. Her collection explored female sensuality and sexuality as historically portrayed in romantic literature and painting.

Model on the runway wearing a cornflower blue leather dress by emerging designer Alyce Chen.

Alyce Chen | Raffles College of Design Graduate Runway 2016

Laura Davis’ work was a collection of immense quality. Clever layering, feminine skirts, and a beautiful green, long flowing coat closely related to the trench, but created outside of the box in super fun fabric. I loved her colour combinations, an art in itself. Her use of applique fabrics, unfinished hems, raw edges, and assymetrical skirts were interesting, versatile and wearable. “Frustrated by the perpetual revolving door of fashion, Laura took matters into her own hands, creating a label that represents a beautiful, minimalist life that prioritises style over quantity”.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to write about everyone in an article such as this, as time does not permit. Congratulations to all the emerging designers.

People are watching you. You are loved!

I should mention as a spokesperson for the Australian Fashion Industry … that our extremely talented established and emerging designers and their creative teams need your support.

What does that mean? It means we need you to spend your fashion dollar on Australian labels. Read our editorials. Buy tickets to events.

Follow LABEL MINISTRY on social media so our platform can become THE VOICE and THE PLATFORM. In this way, our work and our passion can ripple out to those whose full hearts are relying upon our work, far and wide across Australasia and the world.

Jade Cosgrove sitting in Ambush Gallery waiting for the Raffles College of Design graduate runway for emerging designers to start 2016.

Jade Cosgrove | Founder | Label Ministry | Photography | Romualdo Nubla | Studio MOR+ | Raffles Graduate Runway 2016

LOVE US on Facebook   &   FOLLOW US on Instagram

Until next time,

Jade xx

Thanks To |

Special thanks should go to Romualdo Nubla, the photographer behind StudioMOR+. Romualdo is devoted to supporting, photographing, and representing Australian fashion, Australian emerging designers, and Australian Fashion Week and associated festivals across the fashion calendar year.  Without these devoted professionals our industry would not exist. Please support so that our beloved fashion industry can flourish once again.

Studio MOR+ | StudioMOR+ |

StudioMOR+ Facebook | Romualdo Nubla | StudioMOR+ | Instagram

Raffles College of Design |

Raffles College of Design

Designers Featured |

Ruth Read Instagram

Laura Davis | Laura Davis Instagram

Mary Quach Instagram 

Alexandra Uyen Nguyen Instagram

Hayley Kang Instagram

Coat Hanger Logo done in black on white in the style of chinese calligraphy and paint brushing style with the words Label Ministry placed in capital letters below it.


Australian Fashion Industry, Editorial, Photography, Styling

Karlstrom Creatives

November 8
Picture of a girl in black and white with large round sunglasses and long brown hair.
Model with blue hair standing in colourful skirt and top with high heeled white shoes for a campaign shoot.

Karlstrom Creatives | Photography | Peter Karlstrom | Stylist | Leigh Karlstrom



The passion and love comes from creating something that is yours. We see what we do as a story and the characters just come to life.

Petter Karlstrom


One of my most favourite topics within the realm of Australian fashion is the creative team. We often take for granted the contribution that these teams make to the success of independent designers, important events, and the general gorgeous hype that our industry rocks. No other creative team is more deserving of this kudos which is the topic of my latest editorial.

Who are they? Karlstrom Creatives.

I absolutely love the work of Petter and Leigh Karlstrom.

They have reached, what I consider to be, the pinnacle of creative prowess.

Petter and Leigh Karlstrom are the dynamic duo. Quite literally. Petter is the photographer,  Leigh the stylist.

I first discovered their work when I interviewed the amazing Chisato Chris Arai, another creative genius. Definitely one of Australia’s most coveted makeup artists. If you have not discovered Chris Arai yet, do yourself the pleasure of checking out her work. Just navigate through the menu to her article. Truly inspiring.

But back to the Karlstrom duo. Their work is fresh, inspiring, different, engaging, and pure creativity. It is the epitome of imagination and fantasy, and I love it!

I can’t sing the praises of these people enough. I know, I know. You think I say that about everyone I interview. Well I do try to sing everybody’s praises. That’s true. But it is never undeserved, as I am blessed to be granted interviews with the very coolest of people!

Every now and again, you come across people and talent that is truly special. And this article is about these human gemstones.

Petter told me, “the streets inspire us. Characters and spaces. I usually get an idea from being at a cool location and then the rest just comes naturally”.

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Australian Fashion Industry, Editorial, Fashion Designer, Global Fashion Industry, Interview

Frederick Jenkyn

September 26
Model | Kelly Hockey Place | London Designer | Frederick Jenkyn Photographer | Chris Fatseas

Frederick Jenkyn, Australian Fashion Designer, TAFE Ultimo. The Innovators.

As all of my devoted followers already know, earlier this year, I had the pleasure of perusing on mass, the breathtaking young smorgasbord of talent that Australia serves up each and every year at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. After the week long event, which is the highlight of the years for all Australian fashion devotees, I methodically work my way through the incredible mix of entrepreneurial youth, offering them the opportunity to publish an affordable and effective public relations interview to promote their names and their emerging brands.

Frederick Jenkyns collection was outstanding. I met him the very day of the unveiling of his collection, but am bringing you this interview after corresponding with him in London, his new place of residence.

As I am sure you are aware, and if you are not, please consider this.

Our emerging designers are quite literally our fashion future.  They represent the group of people who will lead us strongly, both locally and internationally, in the ethical and sustainable production of our beloved fashion industry. Young people such as Frederick will most likely be the names behind your choice of dressing and the other interiors of our design lives for decades to come. It is essential that we support them, read about them, buy their product and offer them our gratitude and encouragement.

Please remember to share  the love.

Australian fashion is depending on you …


Meet Frederick Jenkyn.

In five years? I want to have my own studio with pattern makers/design assistants. A machinist and a social media/online manager.

Rolls and rolls of fabrics and a stock room filled to the brim.

I would like to think I’ll be complaining about needing more space. But then I will think, I need to pay for the embroidery for next season so it’s not a good time to upgrade.

I will only wear black. In case someone visits the studio and I won’t look a mess.

And in the bottom draw of my desk, that looks like a filing draw, I’ll keep some throw rugs for the “before show” all-nighters.

Frederick Jenkyn


Model Kelly Hockey modelling in London for Frederick Jenkyn. Photographer Chris Fatseas.

Here is Frederick Jenkyn’s story so far …

Frederick Jenkyn as a brand emphasises wearable innovation through unconventional textiles and hand crafted detailing traversing the borderline between couture extravagance and everyday wearability.

Frederick Jenkyn


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Australian Fashion Industry, Editorial, Global Fashion Industry, Photography

Lights. Cameras. Heaven.

June 28
Bill Cunningham, New York photographer. Passed away at age 87 years after a stroke.

“The problem is I’m not a good photographer. To be perfectly honest, I’m too shy. Not aggressive enough. Well, I’m not aggressive at all. I just loved to see wonderfully dressed women, and I still do. That’s all there is to it.”

– Bill Cunningham

This morning, as I drank my morning coffee and dreamily looked out the window, my eyes rested on a postcard sitting near me. The title was, “The King Is Dead”.

It is not often that I am totally affected by the passing of someone whom I have never met, spoken to, or even seen in person.

But this time was different.

Saturday, June 25 2016 was a sad day for the global fashion industry.

I woke that morning, Sydney time, with a heavy heart, to find that the iconic Bill Cunningham, the famous bicycle pedalling street photographer, and dedicated columnist for the New York Times, will no longer be seen in mid-town New York capturing his special version of visual fashion delights.

Bill has crossed over, and is now travelling on a runway of a different kind.

Bill Cunningham was special. Eccentric. Dedicated. One of a Kind. And. He Will Be So Missed.

It has literally taken me days to comprehend that he is gone. At least from my current world.

And so this post is dedicated to Bill.

A man I never met, but a man that I know has affected so many lives with his work. As I write these words I realise what an incredible thing that is.  To actually be such a contributory pillar of artistic genius that causes fashion lovers across the world to mourn his passing.

Bill is someone that I would have loved to have met, even briefly. For whatever reason, that was not to be. But it actually doesn’t matter because I hold such gratitude for the contribution he has made to my life. And to my own passion for fashion.

And there is that word again. Contribution.  Ahh yes! That word has been spoken about a lot lately, post Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Sydney 2016.

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Australian Fashion Industry, Editorial, Fashion Designer, Interview, MBFWA

The new VANguard … Jessica VAN

June 22
A model walks the runway in a design by Jessica Van at the The Innovators: Fashion Design Studio show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 17 Collections at Carriageworks on May 20, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Stefan Gosatti/Getty Images)

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2016 was really no different to me than it was last year in a general sense. I always love every minute of it.

If there is one, I am “the” tragic fashion week attendee.

This week is one where I cover all fashion designers, established or emerging, international and local. For those of you who know me my greatest love and the fire that drives the passion in my fashion belly, is that of the emerging designer.  

This year, my heart beat faster than usual in the frow. Why you ask? Because of the person who happens to be the subject of this editorial.

One Miss Jessica Van. 

It took precisely five minutes of my life to view the very first Jessica Van collection. An even shorter moment to recognise that I had just witnessed the work of a young designer, and currently relatively unknown designer, who I believe, is headed for the greatest of success. Words cannot describe how much I loved this collection.

I can hear you asking why?

Because sometimes, you just know.

You see an extraordinary talent and the beginnings of something huge and untapped, wrapped up in fabrication of the designs which parade in front of you on the runway.  

Jessica is young, inexperienced, and understandably in awe of a cut throat, competitive, and saturated industry.

She is also genius, dedicated, passionate, humble, and possibly one of the best young designers I have ever seen. She is full of hope and blessed with a dose of the smarts. She sees her designs as wearable art, and indeed they are. She understands the road she is about to travel and so do I.

She is, I believe a designer to watch, because if I am right, I think we will be seeing her name up in lights. And soon.

Here is her story.

Jade xx

Continue Reading…

Australian Fashion Industry, Editorial, Fashion Designer, Interview, MBFWA

Monster Alphabets

June 8
Sarah Watanabe, designer of Monster Alphabets from Perth, Western Australia showing her collection for the first time in Sydney at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2016 at Carriageworks.

Every year at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, which this year has just come to a close, I do a series of interviews about Australia’s emerging fashion designers.

An important part of my week, and perhaps my greatest passion, is to review. to meet, and to bolster, the amazing collections of these designers who are newly graduated or who are nursing their young, wonderful labels through the tender years of their fashion infancy.

This year was no different. A broad array of talented and passionate individuals  whose collections graced the Carriageworks runways at MBFWA 2016.

The life of an emerging designer is a tenuous one, fraught with complex decision making, all weighing on the scales of balance combining creativity and commercialism.  In a world of fast fashion, and the universal hub of fashion manufacturing China, it is no wonder that these designers feel unloved by us all at times, trying to carve out their niche in the small consumer base of Australian fashion lovers down under.

I do my absolute best to make people aware of how dire our industry will become if we continue to ignore the importance of supporting our own.  My thoughts are not revolutionary, but I am completely devoted to my local designers and their hopes and dreams. My wish is that you are too.

So, may I leave you with this thought?

The next time you walk into Zara, TopShop or H&M think about the young Australian designers, who have studied for years, working second jobs just to support their chosen careers.

They need us. All of Us.  Me. And. You. To buy their product.

Their emerging labels need to find a permanent lodging in our heads, as the “Go To” for our next potential fashion fix. That is. If we still value the Australian fashion industry, which I am sure you do!

Meet Sarah Watanabe, the name behind Monster Alphabets, yet another of Perth’s fashion  talents …

For an independent label like Monster Alphabets, we try put an emphasis on slow fashion and an ethical way of producing.  This means that we do not produce big quantities or a large number of styles.  We want our customers to value our clothes and treat them as investment pieces.  Social media speeds up the process and everyone wants new images of new products on a daily basis.  This is not sustainable and works against small labels.


Sarah Watanabe, designer of Monster Alphabets from Perth, Western Australia showing her collection for the first time in Sydney at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2016 at Carriageworks.

Model | Alana | IMG |Photography | Shuwen Yu | Sydney MBFWA 2016


I believe that you and your sister started “Monster Alphabets”. How did this eventuate?


I was in between jobs in the latter half of 2011 and I saw a gap in the market for black clothes that expressed a unique twist with modern design.

As the label grew I dragged my sister Kacey into the business. She assists on the business side of the label.  She does the bookkeeping and basically makes sure I don’t do anything stupid.


I love the name. Where did the inspiration for the name come from?


Kacey briefly studied art at St Martins College in London. One of the projects she produced was called Monster Alphabets.

It was the study of implementing different characteristics and personality to each letter of the alphabet.  I liked the curious concept of the name and decided to steal it.


What is the philosophy behind your label?


Jenga. Design is like playing a game of Jenga.  How many elements can you eliminate before it crumbles. Less IS sometimes more.


You talk about the “Japanese Design Pysche”. Could you please explain this further?


It’s the subtleness in the detail. The alternate expression of beauty while not exposing too much skin.


What is the inspiration behind your label? As an architecture student, does this influence your garments and collections strongly?


I actually graduated from my architecture degree and worked full time before switching to fashion.

The design principles that I learned during my architecture days are the same minimalistic approaches and ethos that I now apply to my designs.

Sarah Watanabe, designer of Monster Alphabets from Perth, Western Australia showing her collection for the first time in Sydney at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2016 at Carriageworks.

Model | Anna | Photography | United Images | Sydney MBFWA 2016


As an emerging label, how difficult has it been for you to secure a position within other markets, such as the US?


I’ve only been active in Australia so I am not an international label yet but hopefully one day!


Who are the people from whom you take inspiration and most admire within your industry?


Diana Vreeland … her eccentric philosophy on fashion and life in general is so inspiring.

I am still looking for the Diana Vreeland of this generation.


Lol! Aren’t we all?


What do you love about the fashion industry in Perth?


The fashion industry in Perth is so small that we all know each other and are extremely supportive towards each other.  There is nothing better than seeing a Perth face at events like MBFWA.


Do you see yourself living and/or working in the eastern states?


It is definitely something that I am asked about all the time.

With the digital proximity that is available to us now, I don’t think the geographical location is as crucial as it was before.  I am bit of a cavewoman so even if I lived in New York, I would probably still stay at home 20 hours a day sewing up a storm in the basement … #getalife


What do you think of today’s street fashion?


I personally feel that social media has made such an impact on street fashion.  My personal view is that girls want to stand out from the crowd – thus their focus is on creating an image that will outshine everyone else’s on Instagram and other social media outlets.  The priority now is to stand out even if it means compromising on style.


What advice would you give to aspiring fashion designers?


To accept the unpredictability of fashion.  Sometimes things just doesn’t make sense in fashion.  Just accept it and move on…

Sarah Watanabe, designer of Monster Alphabets from Perth, Western Australia showing her collection for the first time in Sydney at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2016 at Carriageworks.

Model | Subah | IMG | Photography | United Images | Sydney MBFWA 2016


What is your advice to young women and the way they dress?


Be true to yourself.  Wear something that makes you comfortable physically and mentally.


What influence do you think social media has had on our current fashion industry and do you think it is a positive or negative influence?


I think it has changed EVERYTHING from marketing strategy to the retail environment.

I think bringing any interest to fashion is always a good thing for the industry.  However I think providing the social media influencers with too much power when it is not justified will eventually become a questionable reality.



For an independent label like Monster Alphabets, we try put an emphasis on slow fashion and an ethical way of producing.  This means that we do not produce big quantities or a large number of styles.  We want our customers to value our clothes and treat them as investment pieces.  Social media speeds up the process and everyone wants new images of new products on a daily basis.  This is not sustainable and works against small labels.


Agreed a million times over!


What is your favourite social media platform?


Instagram. As a fashion designer, visual images is our currency.


What age bracket do you design for?


It’s not so much the age bracket, but I do tend to design for professional ladies who have a strong interest in the arts.

Sarah Watanabe, designer of Monster Alphabets from Perth, Western Australia showing her collection for the first time in Sydney at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2016 at Carriageworks.

Model | Juliette | IMG |Photography | Shuwen Yu | Sydney MBFWA 2016


What do you think of the phenomenon of fast fashion and how has it affected you as a local designer?


It has crippled my label but it has also motivated us to create designs that cannot be recreated by the fast fashion business model.


Wonderful!  When you refuse to  join them … 


Do you think fashion in Australia differs greatly to other countries?


Yes. I think ultimately we design clothes to suit the climate we live in.  I also think that the climate dictates a lot of the cultural aspects too.  In Australia, we have beautiful sunny weather and gorgeous beaches. It is inevitable that we design garments that celebrate and accentuate this gift from Mother Nature.


When your designs are photographed how do you like to see them represented and on whom?


I think once the garment is handed over to the wearer, I enjoy seeing how they style them.


Do you rely on fashion bloggers to spread the word about your label and how serious an effect do you think they have had on our industry?


My label belongs to a very small niche.  Not a lot of bloggers endorse my dark aesthetics.

I think bloggers have been a major catalyst in this social media phenomenon.

Sometimes I feel like there is no censorship and at times I am wary about the opinions that are broadcasted on the web.

Blogging is not a protected profession so when they upload misleading information or weak content which can defame people, I find it very upsetting.


Sarah Watanabe, designer of Monster Alphabets from Perth, Western Australia showing her collection for the first time in Sydney at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2016 at Carriageworks.

Model | Anna Orsman | IMG | Photography | United Images | MBFWA 2016


Why do you think fashion bloggers often look the same at events?


Wow I thought it was just me that noticed! Ahhahaha!!!




I think this could be due to the necessity to attract more and more people?  I ‘m really not sure.  It’s really unfamiliar territory for me.  I have never been the popular kid at school.  I was always the weird one who avoided the spotlight.  This desire to be so loved and get as many “likes” as possible is a very foreign concept to me.  Perhaps that is the reason why I have such modest number of followers haha!!!


Well. I could argue that one’s contribution to the industry is more important than one’s following …


Do you feel the industry needs to have a set of slightly older fashion bloggers to create a wider and broader space for a diverse representation of labels?



Every human needs to wear clothes to protect themselves from the weather.  It is a primary necessity to wear clothes for human survival.  Style is what makes this process fun.  I strongly agree that there is a desperate need for more diversity in fashion.  My mother has a blog because she felt like there was a gap in the blogger world for older people.

Her idol is Iris Apfel.


Mine too!


Do you think our obsession with youth and only directing fashion to the very young has created a restricted playground for designers at large?


No, not for my aesthetics.

Perhaps it would if I was running a label that solely relied on social media to measure success. If the interested in a label is largely generated by the power of the Instagram shock factor, then this would apply as only girls of a certain age can pull off the “half naked”, “sheer- sequinned” bodysuit … top … dress …nipple cover …


How hard have you found it to show your collections and make connections overseas?


I do get invited to take part in overseas events but as an independent fashion label, it would be irresponsible of me to do so when I am not ready to fund a bigger production line in keeping with greater demand.

Sarah Watanabe, designer of Monster Alphabets from Perth, Western Australia showing her collection for the first time in Sydney at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2016 at Carriageworks.

Model | Bianca IMG | Photography | Getty Images | Sydney MBFWA 2016


Do you feel that the industry as a whole helps you to succeed?


The panelists of Project Nextgen were all very important members of the fashion industry.  The fact that they saw something in a small label like mine with such a small social media following restored my faith in the industry.


How could you be better supported?


I think by educating people on the importance of shopping local would help alleviate the pressure that is experienced in the industry.

I think at the end of the day, if our business flourishes in Australia, we are one step closer towards international success.

Don’t we all want to see more Australian labels gracing the catwalks of Paris, New York and Milan?


Yes. Yes. And Yes. We certainly do!!!


What designers do you love in Australia? Overseas?


I am a big fan of TOME.  Their minimalistic approach to design is breathtaking.  Yohji Yamamoto is my idol. He studied at Bunka as well so our teachers would often use his garments to demonstrate pattern making skills.


Who do you think dresses the best, men or women?


Men.  There is less to choose from so less chances of getting it wrong.

Sarah Watanabe, designer of Monster Alphabets from Perth, Western Australia showing her collection for the first time in Sydney at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2016 at Carriageworks.

Model | Alannah | IMG |
Photography | Getty Images | Sydney MBFWA 2016


If you could change anything about what’s trending right now, what would that be?


Narcissism ..


Me too! Have you read my recent article NarcisSista Fashionista???


What do you think about the prevalence of tattooes? Piercings?


I don’t mind them at all.


Do you think they had their day?


Tattoos and piercings?  I think the phenomenon that was attached to it, ie. the taboo side of it, is gone.  As my friend Jono once said, having “NO tattoo is the NEW tattoo”.


If we were speaking about fashion today, do you think we are becoming more modest or less so in our self expression?


I think modesty is very rare when we talk about the fashion of today.  I think the danger is when the clothes end up wearing you, rather than you wearing the clothes.


Why do you think some designers have gone broke in recent times?


I think it is a combination of the difficult retail environment as well as the impact that social media has had.  The speed at which we are expected to develop new collections is ridiculous and just not financially viable.


What advice would you give someone moving into fashion design?


Develop a very thick skin. Get used to hearing “no” all the time.


When you hear an emerging designer, with a full heart, and exceptional talent, describing the pursuit of their passion in this way, something needs to change. And. Fast.

A picture of Sarah Watanabe, designer of Monster Alphabets from Perth, standing at the foot of the runway, dressed in a black dress and black boots, after her show at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Sydney 2016 in Sydney.

Monster Alphabets | Designer | Sarah Watanabe | St George NextGen | MBFWA 2016


How do you cope with the commercial aspects of your design trade?


The most challenging thing is finding the balance between design that is still commercial enough that it will sell and bring an income while maintaining the Monster Alphabets aesthetics.  I don’t want to produce watered-down designs just so I can make a sale.  This is not the reason I started the label.  Kacey and I sit down every week to balance the books and see where we are and strategise.  This part of the business is just as important, if not more important than the other, more fun aspects.


Who are your favourite bloggers?


I am really bad at this kind of stuff. I am not really familiar with many of them.  I do like however. I think her style is very unique and so refreshing!


How important is the role of a stylist to a fashion designer?


I enjoy how the stylists can challenge the way we see clothes. At times I see my garments styled with items that I never thought would match, but when put together it works!


How important is runway exposure when offering a new collection?


It helps to draw attention. In a setting like MBFWA a lot of the heavy weight industry members are present, together with key national buyers. It is the perfect opportunity to present a range.


What do you feel the fashion industry needs to offer in Australia which it is not?




What are you most looking forward to this year, showing at MBFWA 2016?


Being selected to show at MBFWA was a huge step for my label.

Until next time,

Jade xx

Meet Monster Alphabets | Monster Alphabets Facebook | Monster Alphabets Instagram |

Accreditations |

Photography | Stefan Gosatti | Getty Images | Joe Corcoran | United Images |

Assistant | Model | Bailey Jones | Bailey Jones Instagram

Mother and Father PR

Thanks To |

TheFashionSpotOfficial | Zara Wong | Perth Fashion Festival |

Fremantle Fashion Collective | Mother and Father PR | Getty Images | United Images

Coat Hanger Logo done in black on white in the style of chinese calligraphy and paint brushing style with the words Label Ministry placed in capital letters below it.