SYDNEY SHOW A TRIUMPH
Byline: Patty Huntington
SYDNEY — Organizers of Mercedes Australian Fashion Week 1998 were claiming victory when influential North American buyers made the marathon haul down to Sydney — for the first time in the event’s three-year history.
Rumors of a new fashion star, the strength of the U.S. dollar and relentless follow-up marketing over the past 12 months from the new New York office of event organizers, SPIN Communications, finally persuaded representatives from Barneys, Henri Bendel and Fred Segal to join a 150-strong international buyer and media delegation from approximately 15 countries. According to show organizers, that’s a 50 percent increase over last year. The event included 38 spring/summer 1998-1999 shows over four days at Sydney’s Fox Studios.
The Americans did not leave empty-handed. Barneys showed strong interest in about 10 collections, including orders from three lines already carried by the store: Collette Dinnigan, Wayne Cooper and promising New Zealand newcomer Karen Walker. New lines picked up included Akira Isogawa, Ellin Ambe, Milk, Easton Pearson, Pigs in Space, Helen Cherry from New Zealand and Royal sneakers. Deliveries will commence in October and run through to spring.
“I’m surprised that we’ve found as much,” said Barneys executive vice president and fashion director Bonnie Pressman. “There’s that trend that’s going around, that’s happening in Europe and America, too, that Dries van Noten brought along: this whole kind of ethnic, bohemian, Indian-inspired look. But what’s interesting about Australia is the way that they’re doing it. The shapes are similar to what’s out there, but the prints and the colorations, etc., are really more what you think Australia’s about.”
Stacey Kaye, collections buyer for Henri Bendel, noted, “There’s a lot of talent here, and also in New Zealand. I was shocked at how many people actually come out here from overseas and how big it was, and the excitement and the sponsorship.
“We’re looking at Zambesi, Akira, [Peter] Morrissey, Karen Walker and Alannah Hill,” continued Kaye. “We actually are selling a lot of feminine right now, so I thought Hill was really fun. And I loved the Royal sneakers.”
Both Pressman and Kaye found the prices reasonable; however, they were at odds over the timing of the Australian summer shows. “I’m basically almost done buying fall,” said Kaye. “And then to come here and all of a sudden to think about spring, it’s so weird.” Countered Pressman: “The good thing about coming down here now is that everyone’s going to be ready to ship early, and we could get that resort delivery, so it works for us. Our customer is ready to go away to the islands and to warmer climates, and it’s also the time when not everything is coming in, so what’s new really looks hot and new. And we tend to get better selling.”
Implored once again by Fashion Week organizers to stage a Fashion Week show, Collette Dinnigan put on a presentation at Sydney’s historic Government House.
Dinnigan, who reports her sales have doubled in the last 18 months and who now exports 75 percent of her business to 86 retail outlets worldwide, is working to a northern hemisphere calendar and showing biannually in Paris as part of the official Chambre Syndicale calendar.
With 10 days’ notice, however, Australia’s most-high-profile designer to date after Richard Tyler whipped up 20 outfits and paraded them in the elegant ballroom of the Gothic Revival mansion. The collection included brightly colored hand-embroidered sheaths and layered skirts in a range of sari silks and laces.
New Zealand proved itself to be a formidable design force yet again, with seven labels participating this year: Zambesi, Karen Walker, Wallace Rose, World, Moontide swimwear and, in Fashion Week’s first men’s wear-dedicated group show, Workshop and Nicholas Blanchet.
Some highlights from the week included:
Zambesi’s layered and draped separates in monochromatic tones of white, charcoal, midnight blue and black. l Karen Walker’s black and white military looks — drawstring-hemmed combat pants and skirts and distressed knit pieces.
Wayne Cooper’s sophisticated signature collection of Sixties-inspired shifts and trapeze dresses in stretch acetate and devore velvet.
Cooper opted not to show his Brave label for the first time in three years. l Moontide swimwear’s Maori-print maillots, which drew spontaneous applause in an otherwise flat swimwear parade.
Peter Morrissey’s signature range of sexy city and club wear for men and women. This was Morrissey’s second collection since last August’s bitter bustup with business partner Leona Edmiston. His new business partner, Sydney stockbroker Rene Rivkin, treated Fashion Week’s internationals to a harbor cruise aboard his yacht.
Joseph Saba’s army surplus looks in olive, charcoal, ecru and black with flashes of crimson.
Saba also showcased his revamped 60-piece SABA Denim range at the nearby trade fair. Several pieces were taken away by Henri Bendel. And the entire collection will soon be at SPIN’s New York showroom.
Nicole Zimmerman’s bikinis, maillots and retro two-pieces. Although she designs a full rtw line, Zimmerman only exports her swim and resortwear. She sells to Barneys, Neiman Marcus and specialty chain stores, among other, and is represented in the U.S. by Susan Super’s New York INSWIM agency.
In addition to Karen Walker, two hot labels emerged from the “New Generation” show. Pigs in Space, designed by Natasha Ivachoff, is made up of kicky lingerie and is already carried by London’s Agent Provocateur. The second, Vixen, is designed by former Melbourne fabric makers Georgia Chapman and Meredith Rowe — whose clients have included Collette Dinnigan. They showed layered tunics, pajama pants, camisoles and sarongs in hand-printed and beaded georgette, organza and devore velvet.