A return to rain after Tuesday’s brief glimmer of sunshine put paid to prayers that Afterpay Australian Fashion Week’s Resort 23 showcase might somehow escape a drenching from the intense weather system that has plagued NSW and Queensland in recent months. But Aje nevertheless managed to get Wednesday off to an eye-poppingly bright start at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The collection, called Sculptura, was inspired by the work of sculptors, artists and ceramicists, from Christo and Jean Claude to emerging names such as Maya Lin, Simone Bodmer-Turner, Emma Kohlmann and Malene Knudsen. Known for their voluminous party dresses, designer duo Edwina Forest and Adrian Norris ramped up the colour and texture with a demi-couture collection that groaned with artisanal handwork. Of particular note: a series of floor-sweeping maxi dresses in cherry red and vivid citrus hues and one knockout vermilion sleeveless sheath dress festooned with fringing from the waist down.
Showcasing a handful of the most recent graduates from the TAFE NSW Fashion Design Studio (whose alumni include Dion Lee, Nicky Zimmermann and Akira Isogawa), AAFW’s The Innovators show is always a hotbed of talent. Those chosen to represent the school from the class of 2021 were Charlotte Thorn, Tobias Sangkhul, Seung Michael Jun, Sugun Kim and Tina Zhang (who, according to her Instagram bio, also happens to be a qualified Certified Practising Accountant, which should come in handy on the business front). Standouts included Sangkhul’s glittering chainmail dresses, Kim’s colourful mismatched prints and Seung Michael Jun’s striking digital prints that had a paint-splodged effect.
A recipient of both the National Designer Award and the Australian Fashion Laureate’s Best Emerging Designer Award, Charlotte Hicks’ ESSE label made its AAFW debut at the Bennelong restaurant inside the Sydney Opera House. Hicks made a strong case for sustainable luxury with a collection of chic wardrobe essentials called The Editions, which had been made using upcycled pieces that had been repurposed from excess stock. In a mostly monochromatic palette, popped with accents of lipstick red and rust, Hicks’ minimalist tailoring included relaxed suiting, shirts featuring scarf prints and a suite of fabulous overcoats that included one deconstructed trench coat, half of which had been hacked off and wrapped around the shoulders like a cape.
Sydney tow truck driver-turned-fashion futurist Daniel Avakian didn’t mind the rain at all, as it evoked the dystopian theme of his Tears in the Rain collection — which Blade Runner devotees will recognise as the name of the monologue delivered by dying replicant Roy Batty from Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci fi masterpiece. Featuring sharp-shouldered suiting, wet look trench coats, moulded leather corsets (for men) and evening gowns that boasted graffiti print panelling, the show’s most compelling narrative was its metaverse component.
Specifically, eight faceless silver avatars who appeared in the show’s accompanying video wall backdrop, in exact replicas of the garments on the runway. The point was to showcase the new Real Time Fashion or RTF concept that Avakian has had in development. Due to launch later this year, RTF is designed to enable fast to market apparel, using remote customer 3D body-scanning and photo realistic avatars. “These are real, simulated avatars” said Avakian, who was unimpressed by the inaugural Metaverse Fashion Week, which ran from March 24-27 on Decentraland, an Ethereum blockchain-powered virtual world. “I personally felt it fell short, it was very ‘Lego’-like, not quite there yet” he added. “But real-time rendering is coming”.
Karla Špetić had a tropical getaway in mind for her Oasis collection. “I really wanted to escape, go on a bit of a holiday, to some island resort” she told BAZAAR backstage after the show. “I think it’s COVID, really. It made me feel like I was stuck for so long and I just had this feeling of wanting to go somewhere tropical”. Kicking off with a series of sinuous black evening gowns in liquid matte satin crepe, the collection segued into a series of sporty mesh unitards, bodysuits and leggings, that were worn under either satin blazers with cut-out detailing or else quirky quilted panels printed with shell patterns, that were fastened to the body with strapping.
Yes, we might still be in the throes of a global pandemic, but Auteur’s collection of glittering slip dresses, sequinned bikini bottoms and slinky evening dresses with cut-outs amply demonstrated that model-turned-designer Lucinda Taffs has a customer base that is raring to get out there and party again, superspreader events be damned.
And then to Sass & Bide, which was founded by Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton in 1999 and once claimed top billing at Australian Fashion Week as one of the event’s hottest tickets. Clarke and Middleton became overnight multi-millionaires after Myer, Australia’s largest department store chain, paid some $70 million in instalments to get its hands on the brand when it was at its peak in 2011. But a decade is a long time in fashion. The brand presented a mix of ruffled tea gowns, metallic evening looks and distressed denim, and the shoes were an homage to Versace’s red hot Medusa platform pumps by Australian brand Novo Shoes. But the ticketed public show left some media delegates perplexed by the experience.
The greatest appeal of the show was in the several Australian models who have made their names on the overseas runways, including Astrid Holler, Madison Stubbington and brand new Priscilla’s face Nova Fletcher, who made her runway debut at Alexander Wang’s Fall 2022 show in Los Angeles three weeks ago.
The day wrapped as it began, back at the Museum of Contemporary Art. This time, for a dinner presentation of Bassike’s Resort 23 collection, by way of a colourful video shot by Ben Morris. Inspired by the Great Barrier Reef, with the video filmed on Hamilton Island, highlights of the collection included open mesh sweaters and crocheted dresses layered over bodysuits and tank dresses and a variety of louche, voluminous trousers, among the best a ‘Paper Bag’ pant in crisp white cotton.
With a business that makes over 95 percent of its product locally and a serious commitment to sustainable goals, Bassike is at the vanguard of sustainable fashion in Australia. Earlier this year its organic cotton jersey line gained carbon neutral certification and 79 percent of the resort collection was designed using sustainable materials, including organic and responsibly sourced yarns.
“When designing, I am always thinking about how the garment looks and feels, and the people who will wear it – the importance of using the most beautiful fabrications with a focus on fit, proportion and quality construction cannot be understated,” said Bassike creative director Deborah Sams in the collection notes. “I hope our Resort 23 collection will inspire positivity and a vibrant energy, whilst also encouraging people to make more considered choices to support the future of our planet.”