Machine gun fire from stilettos and the jerky slamming of sandals on the runway returns to New York on Wednesday for fashion week. Last season, Covid-19 pushed the biannual event into the digital space, sparking industry speculation over whether physical emissions were still relevant.
With 91 labels competing for attention to this week’s schedule, including Thom Browne, Michael Kors, Gabriela Hearst, Tory Burch, Carolina Herrera and Jason Wu, it’s clear the big brands still believe in fulfilling. a first row and that their faith in fashion may have come from Australia.
Three months ago, Australian Fashion Week was the first post-Covid-19 event on the international catwalk calendar, with a cross section of local designers moving forward at Sydney’s Carriageworks, despite the absence of guests. and international buyers. Even last-minute border restrictions with Victoria did not dampen the appeal of the event which was canceled in 2020.
“It was a break from all the digital catwalks,” said Natalie Xenita, executive director of IMG Fashion Asia-Pacific, owner of Australian Fashion Week, now sponsored by Afterpay. “Just seeing a parade live was an exciting proposition. “
There were 42 salons with more than 100 participating designers and 18,500 people in attendance, up from 24,000 at the most recent event in 2019. Media coverage was 75% higher than in 2019, according to Xenita. “Everyone wanted good news. “
Given these numbers, it’s no surprise that Melbourne Fashion Week, which is typically held in October, is no longer attempting a digital event and is waiting for physical shows to be possible.
“After 2020, we had the luxury of seeing what we could do differently,” said Xenita.
We chatted with three designers who returned to the runway for Australian Fashion Week Resort ’22 season to find out what made it different and if it worked.
“We were advised not to do a show at 7:30 am. It was about offering a snapshot of the brand to a place where we draw so much inspiration from, ”said Richard Jarman, Creative Director and co-founder of men’s clothing brand Commas with his wife Emma Jarman. “We had 100% participation. “
Launched in 2016 with a focus on high-end resort wear, Commas had already achieved must-watch label status ahead of its Australian Fashion Week debut, with Richard receiving the prestigious National Designer Award at the Melbourne Fashion Festival in March.
The label is already supplied by online stores MyTheresa, Browns and Matches as well as department stores David Jones and Harvey Nicholls in Dubai, but the show has attracted more interest.
“We have seen a 50% increase over our previous collection,” Jarman said of sales.
With international buyers unable to attend, Commas was able to leverage existing relationships and streaming via IMG to generate interest.
“We were able to create a portal that immediately connected the shows to IMG’s 120,000 subscribers,” said Xenita. “There were 610,000 minutes of viewing on the platform and 60 countries that streamed the content with an average viewing time of 24 minutes.”
In addition to the clothes, Jarman credits the show’s success to the spectacular setting, but getting the proper attention is not a cheap exercise.
“With the teams needed to bring a show to life, I think it would be hard to budget under $ 80,000 for a show and from there, there is no limit to what you could. spend, ”Jarman said.
“I think it’s really something that translates into Commas and after tasting the first show I’m sure we’ll be back.”
While sales were a priority for many brands attending Australian Fashion Week, Kirrikin’s Amanda Healy had other challenges.
“Because I was from WA, the cost to me was high, totaling almost $ 20,000 to get everything ready and photographed for the show,” Healy said. “For a small brand, it’s a lot of money.
Kirrikin’s vivid prints appeared in the group show Indigenous Fashion Projects, which absorbed much of the event’s costs associated with production, designs and styling. IMG has also waived its usual attendance fee for the 2021 event, but for a social enterprise Healy started in 2014 to financially support Indigenous artists, every dollar counts.
“There are options to apply for grants to help, but the government’s message this year was so unclear that it was difficult to attract support.”
Attending this year’s event, where Indigenous fashion took center stage with two dedicated group shows, was a priority for Healy, who is a member of the Wonnarua Nation of the Hunter Valley.
“For the first time, we were taken seriously as fashion products. Despite my complaint about Covid-19, it probably helped us. Without the international participation there was more room for us, it was the perfect storm to tell our stories. “
Following this experience, Healy spoke with David Jones about an upcoming project and the runway collection is currently available for sale online.
“I would definitely do it again,” Healy said. “Being a part of it was so important. It’s like soccer. You can stay home and watch it on TV, but being there is another thing. It’s about the atmosphere and the big picture.
“It’s unusual to have a brand that doesn’t exist on the fashion week schedule,” said Gabriella Pereira, co-founder of Beare Park with her friend Angela Krantz.
“For us, participating was the uniqueness of launching a brand with a show. We weren’t a mature label. It was just a matter of saying “this is our brand and what it stands for.” “
Two months before the brand’s debut at the Sydney Opera House, Pereira was working in investment banking, with the Beare Park concept of a capsule collection of Australian-made basics that is bubbling up. It was timing rather than strategy that drove the brand onto the track.
“It was about taking the plunge and considering where we are now, in confinement, we are so happy to have been able to put on a show. “
With only the polished collection samples completed, securing international sales was not part of the self-funded production plan. Three months after the enthusiastic applause ended, the collection is still not available online.
“We have just made the decision to wait until we feel our customers’ appetites, which correlates with an easing of restrictions in Australia. We are not running ahead. We will launch when there is a request.
Even without a single click of the online checkout, Pereira is confident that Beare Park will return to the track.
“If we ever have the opportunity to organize a physical event, we will,” she said. “The ability to connect with our guests and our models… it’s an incredible symphony of talent. Having that in a room is really powerful.
“There is nothing like putting on a show.
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