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:: Spotlight :: Mercedes Australian Fashion Week - November 2003

By: Carmine Pascuzzi / Esther Choo

A new fashion event for Melbourne commenced in November 2002 with the Autumn/Winter version of the Mercedes Australian Fashion Week (MAFW). Into its second year, the 2003 event saw various activities, including exhibitors and fashion parades held at Federation Square, plus several off-site events.

Monday morning saw fashion designer Wayne Cooper and gorgeous Sydney model Erica Baxter launch a special made-for Vodafone (the telephone company) red SIM dress at Federation Square.

Monday night saw the Official Opening of MAFW with addresses by the Victorian Premier Steve Bracks and Chairman of the Lock Group of Companies, which includes event organisers the Australian Fashion Innovators, Simon Lock.

Soon after, Scanlon & Theodore celebrated their involvement in the week and their new collection with a cocktail party high up within the Melbourne GPO building, which is still being refurbished for a great new retail complex in March 2004. This was a good example of designers minimising the costs associated with a catwalk parade and making things simple with their staff wearing the clothes and inviting media and industry for some drinks. They also used this occasion to express support for the artist, Louise Weaver, whose work has appealed to the designer for her strong connection to fashion. It was an art-meets-fashion event that Mercedes-Benz supported. A limited edition book of Louise’s work was launched on the night.

Tuesday night belonged to Wayne Cooper and Vicious Threads. Wayne has established himself as a top class designer over the past ten years and had a feature show at The Edge in Federation Square. It was a long wait for the viewing audience, but much anticipation, as celebrity model Paris Hilton was to participate and wore three garments in the parade. Leading Australian international model Alyssa Sutherland also took part and the parade showcased a “Black is beautiful” look under the banner of Hardcore Deluxe. With his customary edge and a collection oozing sex appeal, the renowned Wayne Cooper leather pants and jackets were striking as always. Other fabrics used included cashmere, silk chiffon, and black sheepskin.

It was a big occasion for Ivan Gomez, designer of the Vicious Threads label. The label has grown immensely over the past two years and it was the focus of all the attention, following the Wayne Cooper show. Held at the Forum Theatre, with its beautiful setting, the time was right for Vicious Threads to dazzle the viewers with its new collection. However, the show, though very pacy, lacked some oomph and didn't really pack a big punch. Although it was a big stage in which to make a mark, it shouldn't diminish the label's presence in the market and their growth. Great things should still happen for Ivan and the label.

It was then off to Wayne Cooper's party at Q Bar in South Yarra. Wayne was extremely happy with his showing and everybody celebrated with him. Although there was a separate area for Wayne, his wife, and certain guests, he made a point of speaking to all those who attended. There was some of the usual scuttlebutt from writers for the Sydney Confidential gossip column about the fact that Channel 7 was going to withdraw funding for the Hilton sisters if Paris was seen with Channel 10 Australian Idol identity Rob “Millsy” Mills. Well, they came to Wayne's party hand in hand and lapped up all the attention. It was a great party for those in Wayne's world.

On Wednesday, I spent some time visiting the various exhibitors at The Source at MAFW. People from Melbourne, interstate, and overseas took up floor space in which to showcase their business and hopefully attract future trading partners and contacts. Things were a little quieter than they expected, but it can only take a handful of potential buyers to be attracted for some benefit to arise. During the day, there were two Ready-to-Wear parades, the first featuring menswear. Those involved were AG by Arthur Galan, Devious, Isaiah, and ericaamerica. A strong international contingent was present for the mid-morning parade and they saw some stylish suits and knits from AG. Devious adopted an in-your-face theme with one shirt showing a message, “Revolution will not be televised”. Isaiah had guys in eclectic headwear and showed some interesting t-shirts and jumpers. Lots of attitude was displayed by ericaamerica.
Later, TL Wood and ess-Hoshika participated in the next Ready-to-Wear parade. T.L Wood sent models down in bolero knits and clingy long-sleeved tops in cream, white, turquoise, brown and charcoal. Silk shirts attired with three-piece suits. Trousers were cut to fit snug derrieres in black, cream and chocolate. The elegant ensemble included tweed pencil skirts and shorts. While T.L. Wood embraced Brideshead Revisited, ess-Hoshika’s collection was apocalyptically inspired. Models sported leather headgear and fingerless leather gloves. Tulle, ruffles and holes figured strongly in shirts, vests and pants in black, greys, cream and white. The three-piece suit was given a deconstructed twist. Skirts were long and slim, tailored pants split from the back of the knee to the end of the hems, jackets had slits at the elbows and backs of jackets revealed long cuts which could be zipped.

On Wednesday, we were invited to meet with several New Generation Sydney designers, from Showroom 724, for a private showing. They demonstrate much talent and there were some beautiful offerings that should see them grow with their businesses. The labels to watch are: Alexandra Nea, Emmanuelle, Saviour, Sensei, Shona Joy, The Love Project, UsvsU, and Victoria & Timothy. They come under the banner of Showroom 724 and this collective is sure to deliver some distinctive and edgy clothes and accessories. Alexandra made a good impression at the Next Generation parade on the final day and Saviour and UsvsU showcased some terrific designs too.

Making its debut at the Mercedes Australian Fashion Week, Sydney-based Showroom 724 is a fashion impresario to new emerging fashion labels and designers. An offshoot of Lenna & Raech PR, Showroom 724 exists to provide support and resources to young fashion designers, like sponsorship, event management, advertising, sponsorship and marketing. Taking time out from the main shows, they staged an independent exhibition at the Adelphi Hotel in Melbourne. Here are some of the labels that Mediasearch reviewed:

Alexandra Nea’s second collection at MAFW combines vintage glamour of the 40’s and the colour and minimalism of the 60’s. Silk georgette, slippery satin and vintage wool defined by drapes and folds in caramel, turquoise, dusty mint and pinks silhouette the body in leggy minis, swing coats, lounge pants, halter necks tops and dresses. The definitive look is modern with Old World charm. Signature pieces include the Caramel Slice Dress – stringy shoulder straps that give way to pleats at the torso, caught in place with a contoured waistband, cascading in satin from the hips. The Swing Coat makes a welcome comeback in ‘straw’ wool while slinky silk Lounge Pants with textured silk georgette overlays provide the perfect wardrobe partner for the Swing Coat. Needless to say, Nea’s halter neck tops and lounge pants are one hot combination!

Alexandra Nea is available in a select group of exclusive boutiques across Australia & is also stocked in Elizabeth Charles, New York.

Think back to the 50’s where tailored shapes and soft pastel colours reigned. Shona-Joy’s T-shirts, sash tops, kimono tops are in lemon, mint and pink, and come with her signature screen-art prints. The candy floss colours are combined with structured pieces in solid classic colours of black, beige and charcoal in drills and knit-look cottons. It’s a fluid collection that shouts comfort but looks smart and groovy. Standouts are the capri pants, the ‘Eddie Falco’ trench – a classic cut with belted buckle and tabbed sleeves, and the ‘Love, Honour and Obey’ jacket – styled like the collarless Chanel jacket, fully reversible, solid block colour on one side, graphic prints on the other, with white contrast piping in stretch cotton. Strong yet feminine and functional, Shona-Joy’s pieces are hard to resist.

Shona-Joy is currently stocked in Australia, and is also available in select boutiques in the UK, New York, San Francisco, Japan, Malaysia and New Zealand.

Would you wear a sock on your elbow? Timo Rissanen, upcoming men’s fashion designer of UsvsU, has done just that on his hand-finished T-shirts with details of ribbon embroidery and snake motifs in apple green, black and white. His latest collection, Nummela, underscores Timo’s fun and quirky approach in design. Timo eschews the current distressed in look in denim, preferring solid dark colours, a look reminiscent of the industrial punk era. The Juha black denim jacket features a detachable lining in hand-made felt – useful and warm when visiting his native Finland. Timo makes his debut into women’s wear next season, alongside his trademark menswear in Spring/Summer 04. UsvsU is sold in Italy, Russia, Belarus and Australia.

If you’re into British post-punk or mod music scene, then you’ll love Saviour’s latest streetwear collection. The Decay features acid-burnt cotton T-shirts with suede detailing, ‘brogue work’ finishes, hand printed granddad collar mod shirts and dark workmen denim jeans and jackets. Mortality showcases Saviour’s definitive style in screen printing on cotton T-shirts and shirtdresses. The range also includes bomber-style slashed leather jackets. Thieves Like Us embraces the industrial and the working-class with wide leg jeans and denim jackets, flocked heavy work-wear shirts and stone-washed screen printed T-shirts. Grotesk is a special limited-edition of 50 original handcrafted and screen printed T-shirts at $140 a pop, complete with a re-sealable pack that also doubles as a collectable bag. Saviour’s works are at selected boutiques in Australia, News Zealand and London.

The MAFW wrapped up on Thursday with further parades, most notable being the latest designs by Toni Maticevski and Easton Pearson. The event organisers seemed very pleased that the Melbourne version of MAFW grew further (into its second year only) and it has an opportunity, during the next two years, to further cement its place. The Australian Fashion Innovators is looking forward to the next few years in gaining greater profile within the fashion industry for the event. It took a few years for the Sydney MAFW in May to establish itself, so we should see better things ahead for the Melbourne event. Wayne Cooper made an interesting comment to me in that he'd like to see this event a month earlier. It will be interesting to gauge other opinions from wholesalers and retailers.

:: Mercedes Australian Fashion Week - Melbourne November 2003