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:: Spotlight :: Melbourne Fashion Festival 2004 - the wrap

By: Carmine Pascuzzi / Katie Isaac / Sarah

Pictured: Australia's International model Kristy Hinze relaxes backstage. (photo by Matthew Deller)

A packed programme of events marked the 8th Melbourne Fashion Festival (MFF), which was held from March 14-21, 2004. Festival organisers, with the co-operation of the State Government, City of Melbourne and major sponsor L’Oreal, spent much time gathering the forces into being involved in the showcasing of leaders in the clothing and textiles market. Several international visitors and some innovative designers ensured a healthy week of attendances and curiosity at the latest trends. In fact, public interest saw attendances higher than in previous years, with sell-out parades at the Hotel Sofitel each day, and almost capacity crowds at the large Plaza Ballroom for the Ready-to-Wear shows.

There were events to cater for all styles and occasions and were held at venues across the Melbourne city centre; from the traditional department store lunchtime parades, the popular Ready-to-Wear nightly parades, the Hotel Sofitel daily shows, and a variety of product launches, displays, workshop, exhibitions, etc. A number of special events drew appeal from various sectors, including the New Designer Award 2004, the Moet and Chandon Fashion Ball, the MFF Business Seminar, and the Marketing Breakfast. The Festival also marked the last for Festival Director Robert Buckingham. He deserves great credit in helping to ensure that this event bore the fruits of the initial idea eight years ago.

Here is a rundown of what we saw during the Melbourne Fashion Festival.

Monday 15 March

The first event was the annual New Designer Award and it was held at the Melbourne GPO. The building is still being refurbished from a major fire there four years ago, yet the Ground Floor was set up to stage this event and a number of Ready-to-Wear shows throughout the week. It is a glorious old building that has the potential to become Melbourne’s equivalent of Sydney’s QVB.
Eventually, the GPO will be transformed into a huge shopping complex covering four levels, as well as housing a restaurant and wine bar.

Mad Cortes won the New Designer Award.

The Bonds brand reinforced its strong image and popularity at the launch of the new season’s range. A beautiful morning on the rooftop of the Adelphi Hotel saw the Bonds organisation stage a colourful parade alongside the pool. Ambassador for the brand, Pat Rafter, was present to view the latest Bonds gear and he was later dumped into the pool by a group of models. Due to overseas commitments, his fellow Bonds ambassador Sarah O’Hare was unable to attend the Festival.

L'Oréal Paris Ready to Wear 1
Presented by Harper's Bazaar
Featured Akira Isogawa, Collette Dinnigan, Easton Pearson, Nicola Finetti, Zambesi
At the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)

L’Oreal opened its fashion week at the Australian Centre of Contemporary Art, the perfect platform to parade the artwork of Australia’s top designers on a group of tall thin women through three divided rooms. Paul Mac pumped out the tunes which along with the lighting prior to each designer’s collection set the mood of what was to come. Akira Isogawa’s collection began the show, a man whose designs are always that little more creative and unique. And if fashion and art are ever considered two different entities, his work manages to blur the line between them. The models were draped in heavy, yet flowing fabric almost like cheesecloth in layered skirts and dresses falling somewhere around the knee. The colours were predominantly pale pinks and creams though a hot pink and an orange number stood out in contrast.

Zambesi followed with a range of mainly black skirts and jackets, the occasional glitter of a sparkling fabric and some grey accompanying black. Nicola Finetti brought the colour back with pale, short slip dresses showing a 1920’s Charlestoninfluence. Elegant long red and purple evening dresses graced the catwalk, the latter teamed with a long knitted hooded cardigan.

Patterned fabric dominated Easton Pearson’s offering, memorably big floral prints of blues and greens and big spots with brown and white. The styles were reminiscent of 1960’s airhostesses, straight skirts to the knee and uniform type jackets.

The show wrapped up with the ever-popular Collette Dinnigan collection. The girls paraded in lacy slim line, knee length dresses and some eveningwear to the ankle. The collection was dominated by intricate sparkled black patterns seemingly embroidered onto slinky skin toned fabrics. More jackets featured again going to the knee and ranging in dark hues for chilly winter nights. The night provided onlookers with a diverse range of designers and clothing that we are sure to see more of in the coming months.

Tuesday, 16 March

L'Oréal Paris Ready to Wear 2
T.L. Wood, Gwendolynne, Anna Thomas, Mad Cortes, Vixen
GPO Melbourne

New Designer Award winner Mad Cortes was amongst those showcasing the new range at the GPO to a packed audience. TL Wood has established itself as a leading Melbourne designer and the team of Teresa Liano and Christopher Wood again demonstrated their knack for flair and style. Their knitted skirts and matching jackets were featured. Sophistication marked the collection of this show with Mad Cortes and Anna Thomas, being fairly new to the general public, going for the heavier fabrics of coats and suits. Also good to see the typical flair of the Vixen costumes. The multi-layered styles have been synonymous of the label for several years.

The still-in-construction post office gave the show that arty feel as we gathered in what almost felt like a ballroom with a space left aside in the middle for the models to parade. Mad Cortes’ stylish and seductive collection opened the show featuring bunch-pleated knee-length skirts matched with spaghetti strapped tops, horizontally divided into two sections. The colours were black and pale silver worn with black stockings with a red seam and matching red high heels and long gloves. Anna Thomas was next, delivering a warm and wintery range of black and grey with pin stripe fabrics in skirts and pants and over sized wrap around coats.

The Gwendolynne collection displayed extreme elegance, with the models wearing elaborate headpieces with feminine cocktail gowns. The dresses had an earthy feel to them, with shades of brown being a popular choice by the designer, while glittery and lacy fabrics added to the elegance of the designs. Vixen had a unique collection of heavy velvety fabrics, draped and layered to create various designs of skirts and tops. Almost retro style floral prints were also evident and aubergine colours added to the interesting flavour of the collection. T.L Wood finished up the show delivering styles with a 1960’s influence. Some outfits had a uniform, military design to them. A collared shirtdress also made an appearance along with crocheted and knitted cardigans. Jockey-like three-quarter shorts were a dominant feature in the collection also.

The mixture of designers proved that the fashion this winter is going to be diverse, with no one style really standing out as more popular than another. Rather, diversity and range are going to keep the fashionable with a wardrobe of variety.

L'Oréal Paris Ready to Wear 3
Presented by New Weekly
Alannah Hill
Plaza Ballroom

Alannah Hill provided one of the highlights of the week with a dazzling show encompassing her now show of dancing girls and retro music. The dancing girls became rock chicks for a night as they were draped with guitars and lyp-synched to the 80s Tranvision Vamp song ‘I Want Your Love’. There were frilled skirts, shorts, furs, skirt suits, amongst the collection. Alannah’s customary French knickers and lace were also prominent. The dancing girls gave the Prince song ‘Cream’ a sexy treatment. This time, Alannah made a subtle change to her show in showcasing some different outfits, with woollen coats indicating a more mature focus, and not so much of her reds and pinks. It was a delightful show to a packed audience, some of whom went to great lengths to dress Alannah Hill style.

The theatrical and lavishly decorated plaza ballroom was a well-matched venue for Alannah’s equally theatrical and lavish show. As always, her latest work screams femininity, displaying fashion suitable for daywear, the cocktail hour, eveningwear and into the boudoir. The music was loud, the dancers seductive and the models looked like they were having a bit of fun for a change. The event was colourful, much like Alannah’s range, though black was definitely the popular shade. Ra-ra skirts were a dominant feature, particularly in spotted patterns or simply black. The waistline seems to have raised from the hips to, well…as suggested the waist. The length of many outfits was mid-thigh rather than to the knee as seems to be popular with most other designers this year. A floral green halter neck top and lacy shades of pink and green for lingerie added to the colour consortium.

Six dancers parading in a black laced singlets and black three tiered Ra-ra skirts rocked the crowd with a mimed act of “I want your love” accompanied with guitars, then set the scene later with an erotic display to Prince’s “Cream”. These acts reinforced the theme of Alannah Hill’s collection of the seductive, alluring bad-girl, and above all independent.

L'Oréal Paris Ready to Wear 4
Presented by Yen
Shem, Andysoma, mauscat berlin, Todd, Arabella Ramsay, Prudence Todd, Body, Nevada Duffy
GPO Melbourne

The second show for the evening at Melbourne’s GPO brought us the more casual everyday wear from the hip and funky. Starting with last years controversial “No War” designer, Shem, his latest designs were safe from arousing the political agenda. The look was casual, lots of denim skirts and straight legged jeans, with pictured t-shirts, some showing 80’s influence with off the shoulder necklines. Anabella Ramsey used a variety of bright colours, straight knee length skirts with tights, matched with thick hipster belts. In fact hip is the most obvious word to describe her collection.

Three models choreographed the catwalk for Body, showing off a range of long length tops, angles in both skirts and tops with lots of crossing over, and wrapping around with threads and ties. The colours were a mix of greys, pinks and pale shades of the like.

Andysoma set the fashion agenda for men with an array of wide V-neck jumpers with shirts underneath or blazers over the top. Bootleg pants were common, as were hooded tops and jackets teamed with scarves.

The team from Maus Cat Berlin had a Gothic theme so naturally the colour of the collection was black. A t-shirt print featured Marilyn Manson, black and white stripes were common on various items as were tights with skirts.

The menswear collection Todd featured more V-neck jumpers, polo collars and square-striped pants. The female counter part, Prudence Todd femmed up the styles still incorporating striped patterns with some gaping neck lines and animal print tights worn with knee length skirts.

Day wear for the Winter looks like tights and skirts will be popular as will be mens V-necks and knitted scarves. Fashion will be keeping us warm, while still making us look cool.

Wednesday, March 17

Calvin Klein gear was on show at the Hotel Sofitel. We saw the latest trends with girls’ designs demonstrating soft, stretch lace and satin support bras. The briefs were cut high over the buttocks. The boys wear comprised soft trunks and there were no boxer shorts on offer.

The lace trims in minimalist colours were prominent while the French lace knickers showed no loss of popularity.

L'Oréal Paris Ready to Wear 6
Belinda Fairbanks, Nicky Birkill, Zayt, Princess Highway, Phillips, Keith
GPO Melbourne

Belinda Fairbanks showed some body hugging creations. There was a general relaxed feel to clothing range, while retaining some edginess. Nicky Birkill has been renowned for being quite demonstrative. She again displayed provocative slogans on skirts and singlets. It was all about sex. Zayt continue to show great promise and a curvaceous (what else!) belly dancer opened proceedings for their parade. The designs are very eclectic and original – lots of satin, velvet, and leather. Princess Highway showed predominantly black and some grey/red combinations. Phillips designs proved to be very chic and feminine. Several revealing designs attracted attention. Keith epitomises a sexy image. The denim jackets and jeans were cool and they also showed gorgeous zip-through jumpers.

Thursday, March 18

Probably the highlight of the whole week was the Pacific Brands extravaganza. The company, proudly showing off their well-known brands, upped the ante with a diverse range of music and activities as it staged its parade at the Forum Theatre. A packed crowd assembled to hear a welcome speech and, with the Pacific Brands ambassador Pat Rafter in attendance, the audience was treated to the latest collections of Bonds, King Gee, Love Kylie, Berlei, Antz Pantz, and Holeproof, to name a few. International model Kristy Hinze participated in the Berlei section while singer Kate Ceberano sang her hit single ‘Pash’ in the grand finale.

In between, there was a ballroom dancing segment in Holeproof gear. We watched some cha cha cha, Viennese waltz, and samba. King Gee men were in uniform. The brand has been going strong since 1926. There were Jockey men and women’s briefs, Love Kylie range (to Kylie Minogue’s ‘Slow’), and policemen did a Full Monty act. The hip-hop music got an airing with the showing of the latest sports brands – Dunlop, Slazenger, and Everlast. It was a big event and beautifully staged.

L’Oreal Ready to Wear 7
AG, Saba, Vicious Threads, Manvious, Hugo Boss
Plaza Ballroom

Ready-to-Wear 7 took place at the Plaza Ballroom and it was the turn of the mens fashions to take centre stage. Some excellent designers showcased their winter range. Lots of turtlenecks and an element of cowboy/western were shown during the collection of AG. The smart, casual gear looked very attractive too. Hugo Boss was very eye-catching in part, with fluoro orange and a dragon print on several articles. The main thrust was to give a well-tailored, exciting look.

Lots of flair with Manvious and Vicious Threads. These labels have made great strides over the past two years. Manvious opted for masked models to make a point of giving more attention to the clothes than to the models. The Vicious Threads parade displayed hats, overalls, a school boy theme, and girls in male clothing. It ended with a topless girl that caught everyone’s attention.

Friday, March 19

The final Ready-to-Wear show, number 8, was at the Plaza Ballroom and lots of colour and creativity showed through, with some relatively new names on the catwalk. Christine’s highlights were the use of satin and much see-through stocking material. Cose Ipanema showcased an eclectic range, with splashes of blood red, rags, and plentiful fur around the model’s heads. A forest green look highlighted Ivy Hopes, while the flowery and breezy Jenny Bannister designs made their presence felt.

Saturday, March 20

The final major event was the traditional Independent Day parade held over two sessions at night within the Prahran Town Hall. During the day, Greville Street was abuzz with fashion activity with a special catwalk established in the open-air of the gardens. Then, packed crowds were present to see Australia's emerging designers showcase their style under the roof of the town hall building. Some very eclectic designs were displayed and even TV personality Sam Newman lent his services for the occasion.

It wrapped up another successful Melbourne Fashion Festival which was the last for Festival Director Robert Buckingham. He leaves on a good note because those involved enjoyed the week's prades, exhibitions, discussions, and parties and hopefully bonded together to ensure a thriving industry for the next twelve months.

Check elsewhere in our Fashion Spotlight section for our photo galleries of the various parades we saw.

Thanks to the contribution by photographers, Anna Kiparis, Ben Durrant, and Matthew Deller.

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