The best of Australian Fashion Week
A model poses backstage ahead of the Lisa Ho show. Photo: Brendan Esposito
It was a blogger standing outside the Overseas Passenger Terminal on Monday who neatly summarised the trends from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia in a single outfit.
In a Reebok hockey jersey emblazoned with "Celine" in varsity lettering teamed with bright-blue heels, Alexandra Spencer, of the blog 4th and Bleeker, ticked off the week's key motifs - brights, sportswear and referencing international collections - that will define what you are wearing next season.
The London Games are two months away but Fashion Week jumped the starter's gun on the Olympics as designers served up a marathon of athletics-influenced looks. The Australian Paralympic team uniform was unveiled on Tuesday at the OPT and the Australian Olympic team opening ceremony uniform will be launched there today.
With the name Bad Sports, Ksubi literally wore its inspiration on its sleeve when it sent out a collection of tongue-in-cheek references to surf and skate culture including drawstring trousers and shorts, silver shell suits and washed-out denim worn with Camilla Skovgaard heels customised by Ksubi and Nike.
Zimmermann tackled the leisurewear trend with its usual aplomb, simply popping a hood on to tops or floor-skimming dresses alongside slouchy jersey trousers and cuffed or bike-pant shorts. Sportswear-like mesh was used throughout the range, most memorably in a floor-length panelled floral and fishnet gown that was the perfect marriage of sweet and sexy.
Ginger & Smart sent out commando-style fluid silk jumpsuits and versions with palazzo-style wide-leg pants, while Song for the Mute featured hoods and anorak-style cover-ups. The utilitarian jumpsuit was again ubiquitous, in a bright-blue zip-front version at Gary Bigeni and black wide-leg crochet at Lisa Maree (yes, it is as challenging as it sounds). Like Spencer, Magdalena Velevska also captured three trends in one look, with a sleek jumpsuit featuring circle motifs in neon yellow.
Get ready to archive all that white Celine you bought last season (if you were so lucky) or simply dye your lesser labels a more vivid hue. The white-out of last summer will be replaced by a cacophony of colour, as seen on the runways of Ginger & Smart, Kirrily Johnston and Manning Cartell. Lime green, acid yellow, bright orange and hot pink are the colours of the new season, and if that sounds intimidating (it certainly does to me), simply update your look with a belt, shoe or bag to add that fashion cliche, "a pop of colour".
Following the global embrace of prints best championed by Londoners such as Erdem and Mary Katrantzou, Australian designers also got their print on with Romance Was Born, Camilla Franks and Gail Sorronda among those going for graphics. Dots and spots predominated, on flares and dresses at Gail Sorronda, shirts and trousers at Gary Bigeni and comic book-art-style at Romance Was Born. Franks offered up a Noah's ark of animal prints including snake, leopard, peacock and tiger on flowing kaftans, dresses and playsuits.
While prints on summer dresses flatter summer skin tones, when the evenings cool at Icebergs or Eveleigh a warmer cover-up is required.
Next season you will be shrugging on a bomber or biker as your jacket of choice, with the former done best in elaborate bugle beading at Romance Was Born. More-demure devotees of the '80s should look to Manning Cartell's translucent oversize print versions, perfect for slipping on over a shift dress or midi-skirt for elegance with an attitude. Zimmermann combined tough with texture - sending out lattice-like lace bombers in soothing mint green - and also embraced the biker with a sleeveless version in jewel-toned florals. Gary Bigeni snipped off the sleeves of some of his, too, as well as showing a long-sleeve version in heavy tan cotton teamed with cuffed tan shorts.
Toni Maticevski recently told me: "Every time someone hears the word 'elegant' they kind of think it's bad, and I'm like, 'What's wrong with Valentino? What's wrong with dressing?'"
Others clearly feel the same way, as this week there was a welcome shift back to elegance during an event that, sadly, for most is still about a micro miniskirt, a big shoe and not much else.
Maticevski was as good as his word, sending out pencil skirts that fell just below the knee, cleverly tailored jackets and pretty blouses. A black sleeveless dress with silver brocade was the most winsome confection on the Melbourne designer's runway, with the metallic ladylike trend also referenced by Johanna Johnson via a gold pencil skirt teamed with a lace blouse. While more demure cuts are a welcome change from some designers, others including Romance Was Born, Jayson Brunsdon and Maticevski continued to reference the peplum that dominated international runways last spring-summer. The former brands both put their own spin on the feminine design feature, most memorably in a glittering carapace-like creation at Romance Was Born. Brunsdon has long been a devotee of ladylike dressing but this week his lady let loose. Leopard print, lace, georgette and sequins predominated in his collection, titled The Lady Is a Tramp.
"My customers were saying, 'Give us a bit more sex'," he says. "I think people want to be sensual; everyone has been so controlled recently, they don't want to think about spending money and they are more reserved. I think it's time we all lost control and fell in love."