Dion Lee main
Dion Lee S/S ’10 at the Sydney Opera House

Having lived in Australia until the age of 25, I’ve always appreciated the country’s wealth of truly creative young designers. But recently it’s not just Antipodeans who have been singing their praises;  Australia’s designers have been garnering a significant amount of attention from international media and buyers – and deservedly so.

Each season, these designers produce pieces that are simultaneously beautifully to wear, of excellent quality, and – unlike many lauded European designers – affordable (but not generic). So although there’s an abundance of good names we didn’t have room to run today, here’s my guide to the best of Australian fashion:

THE CREATIVE ALPHAS TO WATCH:

Dion Lee: When I moved from Australia two years ago, no one had heard of the name ‘Dion Lee’. Yet out of nowhere Lee has dominated the fashion scene down under- and his success is well-deserved. Lee is a master at transforming details that under another’s hand would be too avant-garde for most (knife pleats, architectural cuts, and digitally-printed Rorschach ink blots), making them womanly and ethereal in the softest palette of powdery – but never frou-frou – pastels.
Arnsdorf: Like Dion Lee, Jade Sarita Arnott’s label Arnsdorf is a newcomer. Her last show was a highlight, not only for the ethereal digital prints, earth and rose colour-scheme, and the futuristic cuts, but for the models who looked happy as they walked the runways (rarer than hen’s teeth).
Willow:  Kit Willow knows what women want to wear, and season after season she delivers. The reigning queen of beautiful draping, her clothes are always cut from silks so sparkling and beautiful, it’s as though they’ve been plucked from a magical fairytale. Beautiful but never prissy, these are the ultimate investment dresses.
Ellery: Talented, beautiful and fun, Kym Ellery knows how to produce an attention-grabbing production. When one of my best Australian friends bought one of her dresses recently, I instantly fell in love.  Her designs look as though they’re made from precious metals transformed into spun gossamer.
Sass and Bide: Although Sarah-Jane Clark and Heidi Middleton’s label Sass and Bide is well-established internationally, they’ve recently moved into a different league. Getting their start on London’s Portobello Road years ago, the brand’s reputation has been grounded in their well-cut jeans and statement T-shirts, a staple in Australian women’s wardrobes each season. But it’s in their runway designs where they really show their capabilities, characterised by beautiful printed silks, statement jackets and bold accessories.

Arnsdorf Willow Ellery2
L-R: Arnsdorf S/S ’10, Willow S/S ’10, Ellery S/S ’10

THE LABELS EVERY AUSTRALIAN WOMAN WANTS IN HER WARDROBE:

Camilla and Marc: The kind of gorgeous dresses and skirts that just need to be taken to a fabulous soiree, as well as military jackets, perfect coats and investment-worthy wardrobe building blocks.
Lover: Susien Chong and Nick Briandt know their customer – she’s the kind of romantic girl who wafts about Brooklyn on a Sunday morning, prefers Harvard boys to rockstars, likes white lace and well-worn in boots, tiny dusty bookstores and picnics at twilight, bed hair and a house full of flowers plucked from a field. Always dreamy and always wearable.
Collette Dinnigan: A national treasure who shows in Paris every season, Collette designs the kind of womanly, light-as-air lacy dresses that make your heart skip a beat. The Australian woman’s holy grail for wedding dresses.
Zimmerman: As soon as summer arrives, my first instinct is to go out and buy a beautiful printed Zimmerman dress, to be teamed with a garden party and a gentle tan. And if you’re in the market for a bikini, Zimmerman’s are the best.
Scanlan and Theodore: The perfect dress for a lazy weekend spent pottering about farmers markets, brunches at cafes and afternoon tea at the Wolseley.

Collette Dinnigan Camilla Marc Lover
L-R: Collette Dinnigan S/S ’10, Camilla & Marc A/W ’10, Lover S/S ’10

* First image via Jak & Jil, all others via Vogue.com.au

Briony Whitehouse is Liberty London Girl’s Editorial Associate. She also writes the blog A Girl, A Style.


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14 comments

Reply

These are amazing! Recently wrote a post myself about more high street Australian fashion brands…obviously some very talented people down under.

http://paulaisblogging.blogspot.com/2011/01/fashion-down-under.html

Reply

Thanks Paula! Had actually never heard of two of your picks so will investigate those myself now. And Something Else, though a bit too ‘hipster’ for my personal style, are always really fun and wearable.

Briony xx

Reply

Excited to see Australian designers featured! Great review!

Reply

Thank you! So glad you liked our picks.

Briony xx

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I like australian designers and i would like to add one that i love : LifewithBird

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Though it didn’t quite make the list, I also adore LifeWithBird (and also her sister Alice McCall). I sort of love that she’s still so under the radar after all these years!

Briony xx

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Have you ever heard of Donna Sgro? She showed at Japan Fashion Week a few years ago and is Australian! Check it out…http://www.donnasgro.com/

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I’ve actually never heard of her! Thanks for the tip, Anthea – will go and look her up now.

Briony xx

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My colleague returned from her Australian holiday today raving about the fashion. I’ve only been telling her this for the past year! Have to say that Alice McCall is another of my absolute favourites not on this list (but then we could go on forever). NHG x

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Ooh yes, I love Alice – have quite a few of her pieces that I’ve been wearing for years and still love. And yes, I could go on a while with such a list 😉

Briony xx

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love loads of the australian designers always try and pick something up when i visit australia, love shopping in syndey and paddington in particular, once also to look out for is fleur wood. thought the Dion Lee Rorschach dresses were fab and emma watson rocked them on her promo tour for harry potter with some amazing all saints boots.

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Fleur is one of my absolute favourites – is there anything more perfect on a balmy day than one of her floaty, romantic dresses? The only problem is, she’s all but impossible to find internationally (I’ve tried, but have never once come across her pieces in the UK sadly).

Briony xx

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Love to hear about Aussy designers!! They have so many hidden gems….my favourite is Kit Willow’s fashion, and great so see Florence an the Machine promoting her dresses!! I just setup a little Facebook appreciation of Kit Willows designs if you share my views….please hit like!!

Great blog xx

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