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a showcase of emerging talents designer on Designer Collections

Posted Feb 27 2013 7:16am

THE CATWALK SHOW OF Morrissey Edmiston, scheduled for 8:30 p.m. is running fashionably late. Hundreds are queuing at the doors to the dome-shaped tent at the Sydney Show-grounds when suddenly a whistle pierces the buzz. “You’re all going to have to take a step back and stop pushing,” yells Simon Lock, Australian Fashion Week’s high-octane master of ceremonies, standing on a nearby table. “If you’ve got a ticket, line up over here. If you haven’t, just take any seat that doesn’t have a name on it.” Inside, the fashion is similarly loud and brash: impossibly bronzed men and women in skin-tight white leather and jersey lounge on a turning platform, smoking cigarettes; models skid the runway in body shirts undone to the waist and skirts split to the hip and higher. Welcome to pret-a-porter, Australian-style.

Nanette Lepore - Runway - Spring 2010 MBFW

Cheeky, flip and hip–just like a Baz Luhrmann movie–the Sydney design duo Morrissey Edmiston helped define the buoyant spirit and youthful irreverence of Australian fashion as it unfurled in 14 spring-summer collections and three group shows at this month’s inaugural Australian Fashion Week. Nancy Pilcher, editor-in-chief of Vogue Australia, is still reeling. “It was a launching pad and Australian fashion was the rocket and everyone was doing the countdown: Is this going to happen? Will we take off or won’t we? And we actually did,” she says, “and we’re in orbit now.”

Australian fashion was, until recently, something of a contradiction. Previously confined to the Australiana exotica of such labels as Koala Blue, Jenny Kee and Ken Done, to the rest of the world Australia “hardly registered .001 on the Richter scale,” says Lock. Being seasonally out of sync didn’t help. Then, against all odds, Australian fashion began making inroads abroad: with casual ease, Country Road opened a store on New York City’s Madison Avenue; Morrissey Edmiston, boosted by fans such as Wile Macpherson and Michael Hutchence, started selling in Manhattan department stores. Meanwhile, fashion expats, including designer Richard Tyler and models Emma Balfour, Sarah O’Hare and Anneliese Seubert, began infiltrating fashion’s highest echelons. Then this year Sydney’s Collette Dinnigan became the first Australian invited to show as part of the official Paris pret-a-porter (ready-to-wear) parades.

Yet as a collective fashion force Australia remained invisible. With Australian Fashion Week and last weekend’s Australian Designer Collections in Melbourne–a showcase of emerging talents such as Brave, Bettina Liano and Martin Grant–that might be changing as the industry stakes out a claim on the cutting edge.”Australian fashion has come of age,” insists photographer Alex Zotos, event director of the Melbourne show. “We’ve got designers who are now good enough to show in a runway format just as their counterparts do overseas. It’s time to stand up and take our place on the world stage.”

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