SYDNEY — The Australasian fashion trade show sector is moving into a new era.

This story first appeared in the May 19, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Fifteen years after Simon Lock founded Australian Fashion Week — and five years after selling it to IMG Fashion and staying on as managing director of the company’s Asia-Pacific division — his contract is due to expire in October.

The most recent edition of Rosemount Australian Fashion Week, held May 3 to 7 at Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal, was the last with which Lock had any involvement.

Although the 2009 event was off 15 percent from 2008, this year nevertheless saw a record 60 shows, with 165 registered international buyers and media, up from 134 in 2009.

The company’s next event is the third annual public Rosemount Sydney Fashion Festival, a program of both free and ticketed in-season fashion showcases that will run from Aug. 23 to 28 in venues in and around the central business district. IMG Fashion Asia Pacific spokesman Graeme Lewsey said the company anticipates a 10 percent increase in the size of this year’s program.

Melbourne’s Australian Exhibitions and Conferences, meanwhile, also is seeing an uptick in exhibitor confidence.

The company’s marquee fashion event, Fashion Exposed, will run from Aug. 29 to 31 at the Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre. Also located in that venue is AEC’s high-end component, Preview, in addition to the 10th season of the company’s Australian Shoe Fair and the Bags & Accessories Fair.

AEC is expecting around 8,500 visitors to Fashion Exposed, the same number as the August 2009 fair, with no change to the show’s overall footprint of about 210,000 square feet. More than 500 exhibitors are expected, which is a slight increase from last August. The growth will be in the Bags & Accessories Fair, which is shaping up to be 20 percent larger than last year.

“We’re seeing a much greater interest and growth in accessories,” said AEC managing director Marie Kinsella, who also will welcome 16 French designers to Fashion Exposed, doubling the show’s last French delegation in 2008.

“Business has certainly been a bit flat, but we’re looking forward to an upswing in the new financial year,” said Kinsella. “A year ago, we had very little direct inquiries of suppliers wanting space. It almost came to a full stop. But in the last three months in particular, we’re seeing much greater activity in suppliers contacting us saying they want to participate.”

Like Australian Fashion Week, New Zealand’s best-known fashion showcase also is moving into uncharted territory: one without a naming rights sponsor. For the first time in nine years, New Zealand Fashion Week will be called just that when it celebrates its decade anniversary Sept. 21 to 24 at its regular headquarters: 8,800 square feet of exhibition space, nestled among three runway venues within the old America’s Cup yacht sheds on Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour. The expiration of Air New Zealand’s six-year naming rights contract this year prompted inevitable speculation that the event’s future might be at risk, but New Zealand Fashion Week brand manager Myken Stewart dismissed it, describing Air New Zealand as “just another sponsor.” Stewart said she was confident the difference would be made up with smaller sponsors.

Traditionally interwoven among NZFW’s trade-only runway shows have been several ticketed public parades that help the bottom line. These were precursors to the inaugural public Auckland Fashion Festival, which was launched by Stewart and her mother, NZFW founder Pieter Stewart, on March 16.

“[People have] more money and we’ve also had many more people approach us this year,” said Myken Stewart. “Fashion suddenly feels accessible. People feel like being a fashion designer is a possibility in New Zealand. It’s taken 10 years, but they do now.”

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