Europe may still be in the grips of fashion fever (and the coldest winter in years. Hello, snow!) but from Monday, Melbourne turns up the heat with the premium runways at the Melbourne Fashion Festival. Here are the details.
What is this VAMFF business?
VAMFF stands for the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival. The airline has been a partner for five years and last month staged a Runway in the Sky to promote its partnership.
The festival, which runs for 18 days, includes a record 47 runways, cultural programs and intimate events.
If someone says they're "going to VAMFF", chances are they are talking about the premium runways at the Carlton Gardens/Melbourne Museum precinct in Carlton, which start on Monday night.
Can the public watch?
Indeedy. Melbourne is home to the country's – if not the world's – biggest consumer fashion festival. Every show is open to the public and almost everything on the runway can be bought immediately. VAMFF has been a pioneer of "see now buy now" for several years, and several international brands, including Tommy Hilfiger, have since followed suit.
I'm out of Melbourne. Now what?
Follow the action via Fairfax Media's websites, newspapers and social media. Each morning, The Age's Morning Express blog will include the highlights of the day, or you can research them yourself at vamff.com.au. Also, make sure you follow the @vamff and @sundaylife Instagram accounts for all the live action.
Who else should I follow on Instagram?
If you want a bird's-eye view from the front row, then follow bloggers such as Nadia Bartel (@nadiabartel), Twice Blessed (@twiceblessed_) and stylist Lana Wilksinson (@lanawilkinson).
If you're after something more artistic, Alexia Petsinis (@alexiapetsinis) and The Juliet Report (@thejulietreport) are your jam. And for an independent take on fashion The Estelle Report (@theestellereport) and The Second Row (@_thesecondrow) are worth a look.
Love street style? Our favourites are stylesnooperdan (@stylesnooperdan), Street Smith (@streetsmith), Your Ensemble (@yourensemble) and Vox Frock (@voxfrock).
And, of course, if you love a designer, follow them.
What's new this year?
Lots. The bridal runway is back, which is bound to appeal to everyone's inner Muriel. And there's a series of short talks on subjects ranging from street-style photography to how to get the most out of your social media.
Designers come and go each year but given most of the runways are group shows, you are more than likely to discover a new talent you didn't know before. Look out for the finalists of the National Designer Award, who will all get a guernsey in one of the shows.
What's in fashion?
VAMFF stylist Kate Gaskin, who is working on three runways, says metallics and colour are both key trends this year.
"In the past two or three years a lot of Australian designers have played it safe," she said. "This year there is a lot more detail: frills, wide cuffs on shirts, embellishment, embroidery ... they're taking a bit more of a risk. Maybe it's an overflow of the 'Gucci movement'."
What should I wear?
Never mind the trends, VAMFF is a safe space for experimentation, so go wild. The crowd ranges from "It" girls to groups of girlfriends coming straight from the office. If it's your first time, people do get dressed up, so don't hold back. Add a metallic boot or a bit of shimmer in a jacket and you're ready to runway.
The Melbourne Fashion Festival runs until March 18. vamff.com.au.