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Fashion Week Rescued by Off-Site Events

By Ian Neubauer

Off-site shows by up-and-coming designers have offered a breath of fresh air at the Rosemount Australian Fashion Week (RAFW) as the 14-year-old event begins to show signs of complacency.

Standout off-site shows included ‘Je Suis a vous’ by Ellery, held on Tuesday (Apr 29) at a warehouse in the inner-city suburb of Waterloo. It featured free cocktails provided by Absolut Vodka and pre-show entertainment provided by rock n’ roll band Hot Little Hands.  

“I thought it was a lot edgier than the other shows,” said InStyle assistant editor Amy Collins-Walker. “It was younger and very rock and quite undone.”

Also of note was an off-site show by 23-year-old newcomer Dion Lee staged at a Kings Cross car park. Fairfax reported the atmosphere at the event was charged and the crowd broke into rapturous applause after Lee’s “edgy futuristic and contemporary tailored pieces” were shown, with high-profile guests rushing backstage to congratulate the designer.

And an off-site couture show by Romance Was Born held this morning (Apr 30) at the Sydney Theatre Company offered a daring and fresh approach to venue management for fashion parades. Decked out with a giant bird nest, mermaids, sea-horses and oversized flowers, as well as balcony seating for VIPS, it evoked feelings of Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

But the mood at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, RAFW’s main venue, was less electric, particularly on Tuesday when two separate power outages left fashionistas staring at the ceiling.

The overall impression was RAFW had devolved from a high-calibre business event into a week-long party with free booze and entertainment for posers and their ilk.

“I would never outlay the huge amounts of money they ask to put on a show because I wouldn’t get any more sales,” said a successful designer of mid-range women’s fashion apparel in Sydney who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“Fashion week is just for brand building. The media are ultimately going to promote the designers they know and like. It’s a waste of time for most of the other labels.

“Sometimes [the media] promotes up and coming labels, but what I see is the same old designers like Alex Perry and Wayne Cooper, who are basically has-beens,” she said. 

Many who attended the event offered similar criticisms but refused to be identified by name citing fear of ‘social reprisal’.

Orangiser IMG Asia Pacific Media disputed the comments, saying RAFW is hybird of glamour and sophisitcation and genuine business activity.

“Today at a press conference we had some of the world’s leading international buyers talking about what an incredible event it has been and that they are going to be placing significant orders,” said IMG marketing and communications director – Fashion, Graeme Lewsey.


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