What’s Up Down Under? A Report from Fashion Week in Sydney

It takes about 24 hours to get to Sydney, Australia, form New York. In that span of time your mind can really wander. Leaving for my third round of Sydney Fashion Week, I preloaded the Vogue podcast to get in the mood and spent the rest of those in-flight hours thinking about what I might see Down Under. In the past, much of the week had been defined by dueling obsessions: On the one hand were the designers who favored an extreme take on feminine flou above all else; on the other were those exploring sleek, architectural shapes.

Through that lens, the Resort 2019 season was something of an about face. The strongest collections abandoned overwrought items of any kind in favor of an understated ease. By repositioning the official runway shows in 2016 to coincide with the Resort collections around the world, the city finally seems to have found its beat in sun-kissed swimwear and unfussy separates that could take a woman from Bondi’s beaches to Syndey’s Central Business District and back again. That’s a savvy adjustment; still, all that ease could use a little edge, no? On the whole, the Aussie scene remains somewhat unaffected by the world’s current fixations with streetwear, irony, and fashion that pushes the boundaries of acceptable taste. Well, mostly.

Here, a firsthand recap of the highs, lows, and sights from Sydney.

Scene Stealing Locations Turned Strong Collections into Standouts

For the first time, a retailer presented a capsule collection at Sydney Fashion Week, and it quickly became the highlight of the shows. MatchesFashion.com revealed its Emilia Wickstead summertime capsule against the crashing waves and retro stylings of Coogee’s Wylie’s Baths, a onetime women only tidal pool created at the turn of the 20th century. Wickstead’s take on beachwear, from dainty floral one-pieces to mod coverups, was well executed and well suited to her customer, and combined with the otherworldly beauty of the scenery, the presentation was a highlight of the week.

Romance Was Born’s event similarly married their whimsical, arty collection with their surroundings, namely a retro resto in Sydney’s CBD. A pair of drag queens performed inside Restaurant Hubert, and the mid-century modern decor and vampy floral arrangements served to heighten the appeal of Romance’s singular vision. Double Rainbouu’s graphic, grungy surfwear is on the complete other end of the fashion spectrum, but designers Mikey Nolan and Toby Jones know the importance of scene-setting as well. Inside the Lansdowne, they created a raver’s paradise complete with strobe lights and gin and tonics. By the end of the week, all three shows were the talk of the town, greatly thanks to the synergies between locations and collections. Here’s hoping more designers show off piste next season.

Sydney Has Summer Dresses Covered

If there’s one thing you’ll want after looking through our Sydney coverage, it’s the perfect summer dress. Oz designers do such a good job creating the floaty, flowing things, it’s hard to imagine buying them anywhere else. Lee Mathews, who returned to SFW after a brief hiatus, made the biggest splash with many summery frocks, which ranged from an ethereal white number to a graphic gingham sundress with rope detailing. Albus Lumen offered up a lovely cornflower blue knit maxi dress and wafty sheer chocolate brown mini for beach babe everywhere. Christopher Esber’s Aegean blue slip dress will be hard to resist, as will the well-priced midis from Acler. Repeat Bianca Spender and Karla Spetic also had their fare shares of delicate hits. Unsurprisingly, buyers have taken note. Lee Mathews is new to MatchesFashion.com, while Albus Lumen is now stocked on Net-A-Porter.

Where’s the Hype?

If streetwear hasn’t really caught on in Sydney, there are a handful of brands trying to make it happen. Double Rainbouu favors sentiment over street cred, but its graphic sweats and contrast sleeve knits have a contemporary appeal. Client Liaison, meanwhile, did a complete collection of workwear jumpsuits, printed tees, and quirky separates that had the buzz of a streetwear launch, if not the look.

The closest thing to actual streetwear might be Ten Pieces, a brand founded Lucy Hinkfuss and her husband Maurice Terzini now in it third year at SFW. At its start, it was a Yeezy-esque take on loungewear; this season, Hinkfuss and Terzini expanded into denim, ready-to-wear, and tailoring. It was a smart evolution for the brand, and a rare injection of hype into the week.

A Fashion Show with Plenty of Internet Drama

Instagram famous brand I.Am.Gia made its fashion week debut amid some internet drama. The day before its show, Diet Prada’s Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler accused I.Am.Gia of copying the designs and branding of fellow Aussie label Daisy. The kerfuffle didn’t end there. After the show, the Instgrammers dug up even more brands that I Am Gia seemed to reference. A case of inspiration of plagiarism? You decide. My take: The clothes touched on a certain Insta-babe look of the moment, but failed to update or elevate what’s already on the market. I’m ok with a thong string showing outside a low-rise jean, but it’s best to make sure the undies fit the model—no drooping—before making them the star of a look.

Aussie’s Off-Calendar Strengths

Let’s end with something to consider for future Sydney Fashion Weeks. Australia is home to plenty of booming businesses and cool brands other than what’s at fashion week proper. Think of Le Specs, think of St. Agni shoes, think of Daisy, think of Emma Mulholland. Where are they during all this? Mulholland, without the backing of the official fashion week, had a small party to celebrate her new brand, Holiday, with a zine and some tees, cementing herself as one of Oz’s strongest young creatives.

But SFW should try to get these young upstarts and strong businesses involved. By zeroing in so intensely on pretty, resort-y things, Sydney Fashion Week is missing out on the true diversity of style and taste Oz has to offer. A free idea: Next year Le Specs hosts the Bondi to Bronte cliff walk with snacks and sunnies. Instagrams guaranteed.

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