SYDNEY — Melbourne-based men’s wear designer Christian Kimber has won Australia’s 2019 National Designer Award.
Revealed in Melbourne on Friday at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, Kimber’s prizes includes 10,000 Australian dollars, or $7,160, in cash and a spot in a VAMFF runway show presented by the competition’s retail partner David Jones.
Now in its 23rd year, the award aims to support and acknowledge brands in their first five years of business.
The other finalists were Double Rainbouu, Blair Archibald, Chris Ran Lin, Mndatory and Arnsdorf. The latter received the competition’s inaugural Honorable Mention for Sustainability.
The judging panel included Vogue Australia editor in chief Edwina McCann, Harper’s Bazaar Australia editor in chief Eugenie Kelly and David Jones head women’s wear and men’s wear buyers Teneille Oakley and Chris Wilson.
British-born and -educated at the Queen Mary University of London and the London College of Fashion, Kimber, who is now 30, interned at Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons, before working for two years at custom shoemaker Lodger Footwear on nearby Clifford Street.
He migrated to Australia in 2011 with his Australian wife, establishing his own footwear company in Melbourne that year, while working for Melbourne suit specialist Henry Bucks.
In 2014 he quit his job to focus on his business, offering Italian-made shoes that aimed to bridge the gap between luxury and the high street — and eventually doing collaborations with, among others, Isaia’s Eidos brand in New York.
In early 2018 he introduced men’s wear, capturing the attention of Lane Crawford, which named Kimber as one of 12 runners-up in its inaugural Creative Call Out Australia in June.
Known for his loafers, hand-painted sneakers, long-sleeve polos and unlined blazers, Kimber’s sales are split 50/50 between his online store and his boutique in Melbourne’s Fitzroy. Footwear accounts for 40 percent of his business.
Kimber showed the National Designer Award panel part of a 20-piece capsule collection designed for Lane Crawford that is due to bow in March. It ranges in price from 250 Australian dollars, or $179, for a garment-dyed cotton shirt up to 1,200 Australian dollars, or $859, for a raincoat in sustainable Italian technical cotton.
“I want to redefine Australian men’s wear,” Kimber said. “The way men dress [here] is elegant, but it’s not in my experience just board shorts and singlets, but it’s not suits and ties either. I talk a lot about ‘the gray area’ — between formal and casual.”