The immediate future of Australian fashion remains less than average, when it comes to size, but nominees at this year’s National Designer Award are determined to improve the outlook.
Lesleigh Jermanus, founder of Alemais, has been awarded the top prize, valued at $120,000 (including $20,000 cash), previously won by Romance Was Born, Dion Lee and PE Nation from the Melbourne Fashion Festival and David Jones. The visually-arresting designs from Alemais tick boxes for creativity, commercial appeal and sustainability but stop short of size-inclusivity at size 14.
“We are really engaged with our customers and community,” says Jermanus, who also received the People’s Choice Award at a ceremony in David Jones’ Melbourne store. “But I can’t tell you how many customers write to us about bigger sizes.”
“We want to celebrate size inclusivity because these women do feel excluded, and it breaks my heart. As a small business, there are plenty of obstacles, but it is at the forefront of our future planning.”
Having worked behind the scenes at Zimmermann, Marcs and Nicholas the Label, Jermanus launched Alemais two years ago, and has already expanded into jewellery and swimwear but production challenges have prevented moving into larger sizes.
“Suppliers are reluctant to produce more sizes, so we need to work with them more closely to get past this,” Jermanus says. “We want to celebrate size inclusivity because it is the most exciting thing happening in fashion right now.”
Melbourne designer Elinor McInnes launched her label Joslin in 2018 and received the $10,000 sustainability award. Joslin’s romantic linen dresses currently stop at a size 18, but McInnes says that reaching this milestone took time.
“As the brand grew we were able to produce more sizes,” McInnes says. “I would love to go up to a size 24, but my suppliers won’t produce 12 sizes in a row. The goal is to hit size 20 by the end of this year. I just need a few more stockists to back those sizes and our whole market will change.”