On the crowded calendar of runway shows from Milan to Mumbai, Melbourne Fashion Week has struggled like a teenager to find a look that sticks. While Melbourne Fashion Festival, held in March, has blazed trails with its pioneering approach to inclusive beauty and sustainability and Australian Fashion Week in Sydney attracts international attention, MFW has played catch up over the years, but may leapfrog ahead of the pack by returning to its retail roots on Monday.
“This is a people’s event. It’s about runway to retail,” said Sally Capp, Lord Mayor of Melbourne, spokesperson for the event that is operated by Melbourne City Council. “We are hoping for a bump up in the CBD. Normally, we are the lead in to the Spring Racing Carnival with its finery. By moving the dates we are making sure that people can physically go and enjoy a full-on retail fashion experience.”
The event, which started life as Melbourne Spring Fashion Week 27 years ago, would usually usher in new season styles but has been pushed back to avoid a repeat of last year’s predominantly digital activation, despite bringing it closer to the Black Friday sales period. As a result of the calendar shake-up designers are being encouraged to showcase timeless pieces rather than current collections.
“Our city has been shut down and behind closed doors people have been working frenetically to prepare for the bounceback,” Capp said. “We have so much pent-up demand and energy and interest. Fashion goes to the DNA of Melbourne. We almost can’t have enough fashion at the moment.”
Organisers have added further energy by shifting the runways to COVID-19 friendly locations, such as the MCG underground car park, the Sea Life Aquarium, the Plaza Ballroom beneath the Regent Theatre and the National Gallery of Victoria. Respected Melbourne stylists Carlos Mangubat and Abby Bennett will be joined backstage by gender activist and former Cosmopolitan fashion director Deni Todorovic for the ticketed events.
Designer Dimitria Papafotiou will show her label Diida at a free show on the Seafarers Bridge at Docklands, alongside Aje, Rebecca Vallance and Veronika Maine.
“Having the festival gets me excited,” Papafotiou said. “It makes me feel like things are happening and puts a bit of fire into what I do. I’m a Melbourne designer who makes their clothes in Melbourne and that should be celebrated.”
“We have taken a bit of a hit in the fashion industry, and we really need designers to get out there. That’s what I’m showcasing. This is not the time to play it safe. I’m going big and glam.”