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