SYDNEY — Australian organizers are shaking up their showcases in the face of some of the worst retail trading conditions in 30 years.

This story first appeared in the November 14, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The sector’s biggest story is a new strategic alliance struck between IMG Fashion and the Melbourne-based company Australian Exhibitions & Conferences, which is owned by Switzerland’s Informa Group, to deliver what is being billed as the Southern Hemisphere’s largest boutique fashion trade platform.

From April 8 to 12, the spring-summer 2013/14 runway showcase of IMG’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia will be staged in tandem with AEC’s Premiere trade show at a new Sydney venue for both events: Carriageworks.


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Beyond a new business partner and venue, the early April time slot is also new for MBFWA, which has operated in the first week of May since its 1996 launch. The earlier dates address concerns raised by many in the industry that the event has been running far too late for contemporary buying cycles.

Although a stark contrast to the spectacular Sydney Harbour views of fashion week’s decade-long Overseas Passenger Terminal venue, the 87,188- square-foot Carriageworks site — a repurposed, heritage-listed 19th century railway workshop in the inner-city suburb of Eveleigh — offers MBFWA a 35 percent bigger footprint.

In 2012, 74 designers presented runway collections at MBFWA, with an additional 28 utilizing a series of showrooms at an adjacent hotel. IMG reports that 30,000 people attended the event, including 373 Australian and international buyers, a 20 percent increase over 2011. Premiere’s showcase attracted 1,200 visitors to see 260 labels across 100 stands and AEC is expecting at least a 25 percent increase on those numbers in April.

“There is no denying the current retail climate is affecting the Australian fashion and retail industry, which is a big reason why we have created the alliance with Premiere to ensure we are increasing opportunities for our designers,” said Elle Persson, director of strategy and brand development at IMG Fashion. “With this additional space, we are able to increase the size of the three collection showrooms and offer additional facilities such as The Studio, a space available to designers to shoot their look books directly following their show, while collections and models are on-site to help designers’ overall business expenditure, and a private dining area for VIP and corporate dining experiences within the venue itself. We also have room to grow and evolve the event platform in the future years.”

AEC managing director Harvey Stockbridge said, “The most resounding comment we’ve heard over and over again is, ‘This should have happened years ago.’ It’s good that there’s been recognition of who’s got what skill sets. What we do very well is the buying platform and the trade show. And we definitely doff our cap to IMG for the runway shows and the overall experiential delivery.”

Launched in March 2011, Premiere is a high-end, boutique-focused spin-off of AEC’s much larger Fashion Exposed show. The next edition of Fashion Exposed will run from March 10 to 12 at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Center and Stockbridge expects 400 exhibitors and around 7,000 visitors.

But although Premiere has blossomed as a standalone event, the show will nevertheless move forward from next year as an annual event in Sydney, with AEC withdrawing the autumn-winter edition in Melbourne each August due to insufficient industry support.