Charlotte Hicks 2020 National Designer Award at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival.

SYDNEY — Sydney fashion label Esse Studios took home the 24th National Designer Award at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival.

Announced on Wednesday at the Melbourne flagship of David Jones on the first day of the festival, which runs until March 14, Esse Studios designer Charlotte Hicks will receive a prize package valued at 120,000 Australian dollars or $78,823 at current exchange. This includes 10,000 Australian dollars or $6,569 cash, business advisory services and the opportunity to develop a capsule collection with award partner David Jones.

A graduate of the University of Technology Sydney, Hicks launched her label in 2017 after spending five and a half years as a designer for Sass & Bide and previous roles at companies including Zimmermann. With a focus on denim, cotton and knitwear, Esse Studios specializes in “slow release” editions of small capsule collections.

The judging panel included Vogue and GQ Australia creative director Jillian Davison and Bridget Veals, Eloise Bishop and Chris Wilson, David Jones’ heads, respectively, of women’s wear and accessories, sustainability and men’s wear.

The inaugural Honorable Mention for Sustainability went to Sydney-based activewear line Nagnata.

Previous recipients of the National Designer Award — considered one of Australia’s leading emerging designer prizes — have included Dion Lee, P.E. Nation, Toni Maticevski and Josh Goot.

Launched in 1997 as Australia’s first large-scale consumer-focused fashion event, the festival stages ticketed fashion shows of in-season collections and other events across the city and attracts some 400,000 people.

In spite of concerns about the coronavirus — with Australian cases climbing quickly to 42 in recent days, with one fatality — there have to date been no changes to the event’s schedule or speaker lineup, which includes Global Fashion Agenda chief executive officer Eva Kruse and InStyle editor in chief Laura Brown, who are both due to join the event’s Australian Fashion Summit on March 13.

According to a festival representative, “We are monitoring coronavirus and adhering to the advice provided by Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, and the World Health Organisation (WHO). There are currently no restrictions on the hosting of events in Victoria and we are proceeding as planned. We will continue to monitor daily updates closely and will update ticket holders, partners and other stakeholders should circumstances change.”

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