Today, the Australian fashion industry would be reflecting on the week that was (with very sore heads following a debauched afterparty nonetheless). The highs, the lows, the laughs, the cries – but for obvious reasons, it’s not to be. So on what would have been the 25th Anniversary of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, we reflect instead on the last 25 years of the biggest week in Australian Fashion.

From Alex Perry’s “call-in-a-supermodel” days, where Linda Evangelista would walk in Perry’s frothy bridal couture in 1997 or Alessandra Ambrosio in his much fêted 2014 Spring / Summer runway, to a python-wrapped Kristy Hinze in a $5 million bikini for Tigerlily in 2005. Or that moment the artist formerly known as “Tsubi” released rats down its 2001 runway to a somewhat unimpressed and very precious fashion crowd. The memories have been both exceptional and extravagant, and in some cases, downright wild.

 

Although there have been many for me personally – both as a fashion zealot in my early years and attendee in later years – my personal highlight is two-fold. From a production perspective (and nationalistic one), Dion Lee’s 2018 show under the sails of the Sydney Opera House as the sun cupped its cream peaks was nothing short of spine-tingling. It was both a moment of profound pride as an Australian, and also had very, very good fashion; Lee’s talent for architectural engineering and sublime contouring truly realised. It also echoed 2011, when a young Lee stormed the inside of the Opera House with laser-cut, 3D-pleating after only debuting the year before, almost like an overture of what was to come.

 

Then there was the fabulous Romance Was Born extravaganza in 2019, staged in Sydney’s subterranean Parisian speakeasy, Hubert. Over kimchi potato gratin, big buttered-up whole flounders and crunchy crudités, the artistic razzle dazzle at the heart of Romance Was Born came to life in the most spectacular of ways. A particular highlight was Judy Garland – the Oxford St, drag version – who belted out ‘Cabaret’ and old showbiz capers as the brand’s signature fringing and sequin-saturated wares slunk past like Deco magic. At its conclusion, the crowd rose to their feet in applause, both for Judy and the designer, who courted us with an old fashioned kind of romance: “dinner and a show”. How wonderful it was to be part of their romance that night.

But to truly enjoy a stroll down MBFWA memory lane, we have collated the highlights from our fellow fashion peers, too. Below, some of the most influential pillars of our industry glean their favourite moment from the last 25 years of Fashion Week. Enjoy.

And MBFWA, we can’t wait to see you next year.

Carla Zampatti, Founder and Designer, Carla Zampatti
“Opening Fashion Week 6 years ago and staging the closing show last year are two of the most memorable moments for me – it pushes you to design the best, as the eyes of the industry are upon you. They are exhausting processes but I always love them when I look back at them.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 16: Models walk the runway during the Carla Zampatti show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 20 Collections at Carriageworks on May 16, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Sam Tabone/WireImage)

Adam Worling, Director, AWPR
“The show I worked on for Katama at Andrew Boy Charlton Swimming Pool was definitely a moment – Blue Skies, 20 degrees and a battleship backdrop and everyone sat where they wanted – no seating plan. Oh, but how could we overlook the Camilla Japan show – that was a show at a whole other level! As a guest, the moment that Sarah O’Hare opened the Morrissey Edmiston show smoking a cigarette, sitting in white pant suit and stilettos on a white sofa or a revolving stage – pure rockstar that show was!”

 

Nikki Andrews, Founder and Director of NAC Media
“There have been many career highlights for me personally that have come out of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia. 2018 Wylie’s Baths in Coogee Beach, NAC with our client MATCHESFASHION worked to bring the supremely talented Emilia Wickstead (who dresses everyone from Kate Middleton to Gigi Hadid) to Australia to present “High Summer Vacation”, a 17 piece capsule collection making its world debut at MBFWA. Creating a Slim Aarons style portrait, lounging by the saltwater pool , the combination of Emilia and the MATCHESFASHION team being here (just prior to the Royal wedding), the intricate detail of every aspect of the show, the music, the beautiful talent, the iconic Sydney setting; an incredible curated collection and visually spectacular sunny day produced images went around the world! That was an incredible outcome.”

Mikey Ayoubi, stylist
“In 2003, 2004 and 2005, I worked as Assistant designer for jewellery designer Sarina Suriano. For 3 years, we held these Demi couture shows made up of 12 looks. Each couture look represented a theme from the actual collection of jewellery that was actually sold. We had the biggest and best girls walk for us like Miranda Kerr, Tania G, Mink and Michelle Leslie. Paspaley and Swarovski were our major generous sponsors and it was like none other in the entire global fashion industry. An Australian Game changer.”

 

Johnny Schembri, Designer and directOR of BY JOHNNY
“A major MBFWA highlight would be our show in 2016. This was the last show we presented at fashion week and this show in particular was one of the main highlights of my career. It was the largest production we had worked on and definitely set the brands vision for the years that have followed. The set design and collection was quite bold and unique, I still to this day go back to reference key elements from this collection.”

Marie-Claude, Director, MCMPR
“Every year of MBFWA has brought its own adventures….. and misadventures. So many highlights, people, divas, magic moments, successes (and flops) but for me the feeling I take away from 25 years of being a part of the event is the fun and collaboration with the people in our industry. I’ve got enough hilarious stories to fill a book but my overriding memory is my first show – the inaugural year of the event – when a little known Aussie brand took to the catwalk with little more than passion, some great looks and a bunch of hard work. That brand was Zimmermann. From that day forward, we never looked back. It’s been an amazing ride.”

Edwina Forest, Creative Director and Co-founder, Aje
“For us, 2019 was a milestone year as we received the honour of opening Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia as the ‘Mercedes-Benz Presents’ brand, which was a pivotal moment for [co-founder] Adrian and I. This moment truly offered us the ideal platform to engage and inspire the clients we place at the heart of our brand. In years prior, Aje participated through both runway and presentation format shows.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 12: Models walk the runway during the Mercedes-Benz Presents Aje show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 20 Collections at Campbell’s Stores on May 12, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Lee Mathews, Founder and Designer, Lee Mathews
“Returning to the Runway in 2018. It was exciting to be able to come back with a fresh perspective and be able to collaborate with all my friends again.”

becky cooper and Bridget Yorston, founders and designers, bec & Bridge
“Our fondest memory of fashion week would have to be the energy of our 2019 show ‘Wipe Out’ … not only did we love designing the 70’s surf inspired collection, but seeing it come to life on the runway with the most killer sound track, was something I’ll never forget.”

Libby Page, Senior Buyer, NET-A-PORTER
“2019, Matteau’s first runway show, the production was simple but it was a real moment for Australian fashion, it was the moment the industry realised Matteau was so much more than just a swimwear brand, a resortwear brand, lifestyle that really spoke to a new way of dressing for that occasion, with brand new fresh ideas.”

Giselle Farhat, Director, My Chameleon
“This was very easy for me. Christopher Esber’s runway presentation for Spring Summer 2012. I often reference this show to Chris, because for me this collection just highlighted how incredibly talented and design orientated he is. Looking back every piece is still so relevant and wearable, it’s very much the essence of Chris as a designer. From the pieces, the set, the hair and makeup, and introducing men into the show all made the moment memorable.”

Marina Afonina, Designer and Founder, Albus Lumen
“My best Fashion Week experience is hands down Albus Lumen’s First show for Resort 2016. I had the most amazing and fun time as I had all my dear friends from the industry helping to create my vision. I still remember the fun times such as Hayley Bonham and myself creating our set, Michael Lo Sordo screaming backstage, Jamie Nelson taking photos, Tiffany Shaw (who is my right hand in the business now) that was her first show so she was extremely excited to absorb all of it… Now we are in 2020 and we are all still so close and supportive of one another!”

Deborah Sams, co-founder and women’s creative director, Bassike
“Returning to the official MBFWA schedule in 2019 was a huge moment for Bassike. Resort is always my favourite season, so being able to present our playful and colourful resort 20 collection in an intimate setting at The Apollo – which is one of my top Sydney restaurant picks – to some of the biggest names in Australian and international fashion, was such a beautiful and milestone moment for our brand. We’ve come a long way since that first organic jersey t.shirt in 2006.”

Camille Thioulouse, Talent Manager & Publicist, COMMUNIQUÉ
“One of my favourite and earliest memories of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week was when MAC Cosmetics would host this incredible opening night party as the major sponsor. The invites were like gold dust and people would be hounding SPIN Communications, the agency I worked for at the time, for an invite and willing to sell their souls to get one. It was so glamorous and chic; there would usually be a high profile international guest that the press would go crazy for and a roped off area for the VVIPs. Champagne would be flowing and the party would go all night – it would really set the tone for the week.”

Louise Iselin, Designer Relations Manager at IMG
“There was always a lot of excitement around who would open Fashion Week, and especially so for the 20 year anniversary in 2015, when I was lucky enough to curate the schedule working as Designer Relations Manager at IMG. A brand needed to be at the pinnacle of their career in Australia and making headway in the international circuit. In 2015 Ellery was that brand – having recently relocated to Paris and commenced showing on schedule there, the brand had hit it’s stride globally. Sunday evening and Carriageworks’ Blacksmith Workshop (home of the farmers’ market #savecarriageworks) was filled with Fashion glitterati buzzing on high expectations and we weren’t disappointed. The Australian Ballet took to the runway as a flock of black swans, followed by Gemma Ward, returning from a 6 year break to open the show with more drama. The collection was stunning – Ellery’s striking and glamorous silhouettes strutted powerfully centre stage and then another big bang to close the show with Emma Balfour. About more than the collection, Ellery made a statement by breaking free from casting stereotypes with muses of all shapes and ages. Long live the magic of the runway and Save Carriageworks!”

Elliot Garnaut, Stylist
“MBFWA is always underlined in my calendar. Not only does it debut the Resort collections of the brands I am lucky enough to work with every day, it celebrates the unmistakable creativity of Australian designers which will inevitably dominate the overseas market. Case in point – Dion Lee, Zimmermann, Bec + Bridge to name a few. As such, the week itself has become the highlight for me. A time to forecast the future of Australian fashion with dear friends.”

Genevieve Smart, Creative Director, Ginger & Smart
“A memorable image for us was the opening look from our Resort 2017 runway. We opened the show with an Enormous capacious white hat that went down to her knees at the back over a white lace bodysuit and an oversized white leather weekender bag. It felt like an important moment defining Resort for Ginger & Smart.”

Ainsley Hansen, Founder and Designer, Hansen & Gretel
I have to say the highlight of any show is standing backstage and watching it all come together; the music, the models, the space and the collection, so much thought goes into every aspect. As the Creative Director you visualise the show so many times before it actually happens.”

Alphie Sadsad, National Artistry Lead, Sephora ANZ
“I’ve been attending fashion week for almost 12 years. Within the last 2 years I’ve had ticked off two major goals. Working backstage with Romance was Born and heading my Sephora creative team to create amazing looks with Peter Beard’s vision. We used aluminium foils and Sephora Collection’s Cream Lip Stain to create a butterfly pattern on the face. Another highlight was when I lived my best life being a full-on attendee last year, and I was invited by Lancôme to attend a few shows – sitting front row.”

Dale McCarthy, Founder BONDI BORN
“On May 14th, 2020 BONDI BORN held its first Australian Fashion Week show at Totti’s in Bondi. While I was quietly confident, I was a nervous wreck and had absolutely no idea what people’s reaction would be. My favourite moment came when our agent, Kate Killey, texted me after about the 6th model, saying that some of the retailers sitting in the room were already texting her wanting to book in to buy from the collection!”

Lizzie Renkert, Founder and Designer, We Are Kindred
“We adore fashion week and have really missed it this year. Being able to showcase We Are Kindred in its entirety to a global audience is the best feeling. But what makes each year special is seeing our beautiful family and friends cheering us on at the end of each show. We’ll make up for the loss of 2020 by making our 2021 show absolutely incredible!”

Rebecca Vallance, Director and Designer, Rebecca Vallance
“My favourite memory from MBFWA was presenting my Resort show in 2016. It was such a great way to showcase our collection to international buyers in our own home city.”

thoughts?