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SYDNEY — Condé Nast veteran-turned-fashion consultant Nancy Pilcher has been awarded the Australian Fashion Laureate for 2015.

Now in its eighth year and organized by Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia organizer IMG and supported by the NSW Government, the award which fetes industry achievement was presented at a luncheon at the Sydney Opera House on Friday.

Until her retirement in 2013, Sydney-based Pilcher, a Pittsburgh native, spent 40 years with Condé Nast’s local division, joining Vogue Australia as a secretary in 1973, before working her way up to the position of editor in chief, which she held from 1989 to 1997.

In 1999, Pilcher was appointed vice president of editorial development Condé Nast Asia-Pacific and oversaw the launch of Vogue editions in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand and China.

“I think it’s very positive time for Australian fashion — the good ones [designers] are very bright and the good ones will make it happen” said Pilcher — in spite of what she lamented is a lack of coverage of local fashion talent in the contemporary Australian fashion media, due to the growth of luxury brands down under and advertising commitments.

Four Melbourne brands took out the Laureate’s other 2015 categories.

Toni Maticevski was named women’s wear designer of the year, while Calibre took out the men’s wear prize and Strateas.Carlucci won the best emerging designer category — and 10,000 Australian dollars or $7,213 at current exchange in prize money.

Scanlan Theodore was named fashion retailer of the year.

Pilcher’s award was presented by Vogue international editor Suzy Menkes, whose whistle-stop Sydney tour also included an in-conversation with Collette Dinnigan at the Powerhouse Museum on Thursday evening.

Dinnigan had “wowed Paris on its own turf — lingerie and lace,” Menkes told the Australian Fashion Laureate audience, while Dion Lee had taken minimalist sportswear to New York, she added.

Distance will, however, always be a major handicap for those Australian designers who don’t travel, Menkes told WWD. But IMG’s recent decision to move the annual spring MBFWA showcase to mid-May in 2016, in a bid to align with the global resort season, is “a smart idea” and one that may help give Australian fashion a much-needed profile boost, she said.

“It [Australian fashion] isn’t clear enough as an entity,” said Menkes, “And the whole swimwear area which is so tremendously powerful, doesn’t really come over, again, with a real identity, which would be a great thing to do.”

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