Afterpay cofounder Nick Molnar; IMG executive director fashion events group, Asia-Pacific region Natalie Xenita and models Gemma Ward, Akiima and Anja Brown, photographed at Bondi Icebergs.

SYDNEY — Auf wiedersehen German luxury cars, G’Day buy now, pay later.

On Friday morning Sydney time, IMG is due to reveal the 2021 dates and a new name for the event previously known as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, with Australian fintech start-up Afterpay having signed a multiyear deal as the event’s new naming rights sponsor.

To be known as Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, or AAFW, the resort 2022 collections showcase will take place at Sydney’s Carriageworks and select venues across the city from May 31 to June 4, 2021. It will be the event’s delayed 25th anniversary, after this year’s iteration was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Six-year-old, Melbourne-based Afterpay — which is currently valued at 27.01 billion Australian dollars, or $19.4 billion at current exchange — is Australian Fashion Week’s third naming rights sponsor after Mercedes-Benz, which had been associated with the event for 20 of its 25 years, and Australian winery Rosemount Estate.

According to Natalie Xenita, executive director of IMG’s fashion events group, Asia-Pacific region, while the 2021 showcase will still predominantly follow a traditional wholesale collections model, the event’s new alignment with Afterpay will likely lead to an increased see-now-buy-now offer from designers in 2021.

IMG will also proceed with its new integrated consumer strategy in 2021, said Xenita, selling tickets to select shows on the schedule and VIP packages. To be called Afterpay Australian Fashion Week: The Experience, the inaugural concept was originally due to be unveiled at this year’s event.

Although Afterpay does not break down figures for Australia and New Zealand individually, the company reports it has 43,000 merchants and 3.3 million customers across the two markets.

“It [the Afterpay alignment] is only going to enhance the event further and open up opportunities for designers to secure a greater ROI for their participation in Australian Fashion Week and the investment in the show costs,” Xenita said.

IMG will offer designers “unlimited” scope for participation on the schedule, according to Xenita, from live runway shows and presentations and digital events to live and virtual showrooms and direct-to-consumer retailing.

The company is promising flexible, multiformat spaces with content studios and advanced technical capabilities, including augmented and virtual reality services. As an additional sweetener, registration fees for all participating designers and industry delegates next year will be waived for the first time.

“There was just a huge amount of synergy in the opportunity between both IMG and Afterpay,” said the fintech company’s cofounder Nick Molnar.

“The conversations we have had to date [with IMG] are [about] how we focus on leveraging the reach that we have in Australia. We have millions of customers who use our service every year. We send millions of leads [referrals] per month out to our retail partners. So whether it’s a transaction that takes place today or a transaction that could take place tomorrow and really educating the customer on what is present and what is coming, I think there’s plenty of unique opportunity for both brands and how we play together with the platform,” he added.

Australia — which has recorded 27,341 coronavirus cases and 904 deaths — is in the process of easing state-by-state travel restrictions, with New Zealanders due to become the first international visitors allowed into the country on Friday. Discussions are underway for Pacific Island nations, Japan, Singapore and South Korea to be added to Australia’s “travel bubble” plans.

IMG will work closely with the New South Wales government to ensure strict COVID-19 protocols for the event, said Xenita, who is also keeping a close eye on the results currently being tallied from IMG’s digital initiatives at last month’s virtual New York Fashion Week.

“I think we’ve definitely learned that we have to digitally enhance the physical footprint of the events,” Xenita said. “We’re looking into all of that now. You know, maybe we’ve seen the last of bench seating for a while and we’re going to be looking at individual seats. What’s important is that we do have those flexible spaces to allow designers to deliver their collections in the way that they want to. But it’s about getting the fashion industry back to work.”

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