Australian designers at London Fashion Week
Designs from Dion Lee's "Sequence: Breathing" collection, shown in London.
It makes a lot of sense for Australians to show in London. Unlike New York, where no one gives two shakes for the Antipodes, there are plenty of English multi-brand retailers investing in our market (Topshop, ASOS, Net-A-Porter and Matches to name a few), and London's schedule is less crowded than New York's, with lower walls to scale than the private gardens of Milan and Paris.
However, winter is not a great season for most Australian designers, and as a result there were fewer Australians on the bill at London Fashion Week's Autumn/Winter 2013 showings than there were at the Spring/Summer 2013 showings last year. Sass and Bide, who were founded on a stall at the Portobello Markets, seem to have found their groove in London, and closed proceedings on the week's first night. Willow was absent, and while Dion Lee showcased his darkly sharky woollens as part of the International Woolmark Prize, he did not stage a full presentation.
While it could be argued that Ant!podium barely counts as Australian, and Richard Nicoll flat out doesn't, we're going to counter with the point that they both have retail and PR presence here, and therefore they still have an impact on our shores. Also we like them, and it's nice to feel connected, somehow.
Ahead of the times ... Sass & Bide designers Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton at the conclusion of their show. Photo: Getty Images
Here's your cheat sheet.
Sass & Bide
Looked like: The storyboard for a sci-fi meets exotic orient film, illustrated by someone who only had black, silver and yellow ink.
Critics said: "The collection needed more of those clean, strident statements, although this season did appear less fussy and more together than before." – Style.com
"More readily what you could take away from it was a good dose of optimism on the wardrobe front when it comes to those winter months." – Vogue.co.uk
Also worth knowing: Sass & Bide posted their entire collection to instagram, instantly look by look, and rightfully claimed to be the first label ever to do this. That statement drew the ire of P. Diddy, who said he had done likewise earlier the same week with his fashion line. Everyone called BS on the rapper though, he'd merely uploaded a look book.
Looked like: Sensible workwear meets stiff, shaded felting. Used to create twisted, undulating shapes with a vaguely marine-noir sentiment.
Critics said: "Oh look! Victoria Beckham!*" – Vogue.co.uk, Style.com, Elle.co.uk
Also worth knowing: While the Australian fashion industry had high hopes for a Dion Lee win at the International Woolmark Awards, he was beaten out by Belgian Christian Wijnants who showed chunky, but commercially savvy knitted mini dresses.
Looked like: A gang of preppy, upper class teens who see unusual fabric choices as the ultimate form of rebellion.
Critics said: "Antipodium is a brand known for being instantly wearable but what sets it apart from the rest is those delightfully jarring colour combinations ... and adding their layers of nuance to make the normal not so normal." – Vogue.co.uk
"He wisely let the materials and prints do the talking, keeping the clothes themselves uncomplicated and wearable." – Stylesight.com
Also worth knowing: Antipodium collections always have a strong back-story and a cheeky title. This one's were the recent UK phone hacking scandals and "SEX, LIES & CCTV" respectively.
Looked like: Everything a highly competent professional who is unafraid of handsomeness would want to fill her high flying life with.
Critics said: "If confidence has sometimes been a distracting issue for Nicoll in the past, his new collection had the subtle swagger of a focused designer who knew he'd done good." – Style.com
"The capital is a breeding ground for commercially savvy designers who have shrewd understanding of precisely what British women want - as demonstrated by the Hackney-based Richard Nicoll" – The Standard
"Hero of the week" – The Independent
Also worth knowing: Richard Nicoll trained in menswear at Central Saint Martins, and finally began designing it again in June last year. It shows in the best possible way.
*Who judged the awards along with Donatella Versace, Franca and Carla Sozzani, Diane Von Furstenberg, Tim Blanks, Paula Reed and Andrew Keith.
This article first featured in The Vine