Aspiring models won’t be the only ones with the jitters when they saunter onto the runway at tonight’s Ford Supermodel of the World Search at Skylight Studios — the handful of Australian designers who dressed them will be equally uneasy.

The fashion show is part of G’Day USA’s Australia Week, an initiative designed to drum up interest in Australian culture. The 48 finalists from 48 countries will wear pieces from up-and-coming designers Toni Matecevski, Jo Le Grew, Kylie Zerbst for Obus, Gail Sorronda, Ruth Tarvydas, George Wu and Alvin Fernandez for Aelkemi. More than 500 people are expected to catch the show, which is sponsored by Westfield and Nexxus Salon Hair Care.

In years past, the runway competition has showcased such labels as BCBG and ck Calvin Klein, but this time around the focus is on the land Down Under. This will be the first time a group of foreign designers will be highlighted in Ford’s Supermodel of the World Search, the 21st edition. Aside from giving clients a look at some of the potential models for their respective markets, the event will give attendees an awareness of some of the Australian designers, said Katie Ford, chief executive officer of Ford Models. Many Americans are unfamiliar with Australian fashion, primarily due to the distance between the two countries and limited marketing here by Australian designers, she said.

Several of the designers flew in a few days early to show their collections at the Australian Consulate to potential U.S. accounts. Gail Reid, the designer behind the Gail Sorronda label, had all the bases covered — she moonlights as a stylist and model, and showed visitors photographs of her designs on models (including herself) in shoots she had styled.

“I live on the other side of the world so it’s important to help people put a face with a name.” she said.

With 20 accounts worldwide, Reid plans to open her first freestanding store next month in Brisbane, Australia. The developer of the building offered her a year of free rent because he is keen to attract young, stylish people. The store should be a spectacle, considering Reid said she has designed the interior to resemble a rib cage.

This story first appeared in the January 17, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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