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Fashion in Australia

While high-profile cities such as London, Milan, Paris, and New York are traditionally regarded as the fashion centres of the world, these days Australia’s unique style and creativity means Sydney and Melbourne are also mentioned as ‘must-visit’ centres on the international fashion circuit.

When it came to fashion, Australia used to be seen as isolated and out-of-touch. That notion is now out-of-touch itself, as designs from Australians such as Wayne Cooper, Collette Dinnigan, Akira Isogawa, Lisa Ho, and Easton Pearson are seen around the globe.

In fact, around 60 Australian labels are currently exporting their designs to boutiques and department stores in Asia, Europe and the United States.

Mercedes Australian Fashion Week

At the top of the ‘must-attend’ list of events for international fashion buyers and fashion media are the annual fashion weeks. Held twice each year with Spring/Summer collections in Sydney in May, and Autumn/Winter collections in Melbourne in November, these events showcase Australia’s top designer collections, along with a range of fashion-related products and accessories. 

Adele Palmer, fashion designer
Adele Palmer, fashion designer 1998
Image courtesy of Jacquline Mitelman and the National Library of Australia

More than 150 Australian designers participated in the eighth 2003 Mercedes Australian Fashion Week, held in Sydney at Circular Quay - also home to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

This year included an exciting new exhibition called The Source @ MAFW. A four-day event, ‘The Source’ featured ready-to-wear, streetwear, swimwear, men’s and women’s apparel, intimate apparel, footwear, and childrenswear.

The Mercedes Australian Fashion Week also showcases the work of emerging designers. Especially noted by the fashion and beauty bible Vogue as designers to watch in 2003 were Tina Kalivas, Claude Maus, Kit Willow Michelmore, Arabella Ramsay, and Gabriel Scarvelli.

L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival

While the Government of New South Wales lays claim to being the leading fashion state in Australia, the Government of Victoria makes a similar claim, citing its participation not only in Fashion Week, but also as host of the Melbourne Fashion Festival.

Established in 1997, the Melbourne festival is Australia’s largest fashion event for consumers. It is held each year in March, and is a combined initiative of the Australian fashion and retail industry, the State Government of Victoria and City of Melbourne. For a full seven days fashion-lovers have a choice of catwalk shows, parties, product launches, exhibitions, and industry events to attend, in an exciting week that captures the glamour and creativity of Australian fashion.

Celebrity guests and models are an integral part of the Melbourne Fashion Festival and in 2003 guests included Kylie Minogue, who promoted her Love Kylie lingerie range; 20-year-old Australian model sensation Alyssa Sutherland; celebrated international milliner Philip Treacy; and best-selling author and model Tara Moss.

The Melbourne Fashion Festival also includes a cinema program, arts program and fashion and film lectures.

International careers

Many Australians have attracted international acclaim working in the fashion industry. As well as designing, other fashion-oriented careers include fashion journalism, fashion photography, make-up artistry, hairdressing, fashion styling, and of course, modelling. Aspiring designers in Australia usually complete a tertiary qualification, with the highest-profile course in Australia offered by Melbourne’s RMIT.

Similarly, many Australian models are making their name with lucrative overseas work, even being described as supermodels. These include Kristy Hinze, Megan Gale, Sara O’Hare and of course, Elle Macpherson.

Like all young hopefuls, each of these began their career with a consultation with a reputable agency. Some of Australia’s successful agencies include FRM Models, Paul Roberts International, Tanya Powell Model Agency, and Top Models International.

Government support

Australian governments are also providing support for Australia’s fashion industry. The New South Wales State Government, for example, provides assistance for infrastructure, training, and a range of business improvement programs to specifically assist the fashion industry and associated industries.

Other states and territories offer similar levels of support, while the Australian Government provides funding for, and strongly encourages, export trade in the textiles, clothing and footwear industries.

Useful links

Fashion shows

Mercedes Australian Fashion Week

Australian designers

International designers

Fashion shopping

Fashion reading

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