The second half of Rosemount Australian Fashion week escalated the usual non-stop schedule of shows and parties, full days of official presentations at the Circular Quay venue, creative off-schedule collections and local magazine events. The group of young, fashionable RAFW hosts, mostly graduates of local fashion schools, proved excellent guides to the must-see designers, while showing up each day impressively turned out in an eclectic mix of their own creations: vintage finds and key pieces from Margiela, Burberry and Alpha 60. In particular, Candice Dennis, Tia Roberts, Oyster assistant Emma Mullholland and Philippines based fashion blogger Bryan Boy were great companions for the remainder of my time in Sydney, steering me to the best the city had to offer.
One of the shows they recommended was the presentation from former Buddhist Punk designer Jessie Hill. After establishing herself at New York fashion week in 2005, Hill's work has grown in Australia, and her darkly tough Spring/Summer 2008 looks were the next aesthetic step. Opening with a bombastic Tool song, the aggressive vibe was carried through to the clothes via black bodysuits, sleeveless tuxedo dresses, exposed zippers, and biker boots with the toes cut off. '90's style bra tops as well as cuff bracelets and belts by Elke Kramer added up to a well-styled and dramatic showing.
Closing one of the most anticipated nights of the week, a young Australian designer celebrated for his dark and deconstructed pieces, Fredrich Gray packed the house with press and buyers. On a circular runway, androgynous models of both sexes slunk past, clad in black and grey hooded tops and lots of leather. The collection synced well with songs from the new Kills album, but comparisons to the style of Paris-based Rick Owens were often too close.
The next morning, Ginger & Smart tapped into the recent rage for tribal, with fringed accessories, prints and standout leather arm gauntlets. Elongated, pleated silk shorts and dropped crotch pants were winners, as were leather pom-pom chokers in the goodie bags, but dramatic lighting and piled on accessories tended to overshadow the clothing.
Konstantina Mittas was up next, with attendees atwitter over a rumor the show would feature a release of live birds. Luckily, feathers were restricted to the clothing, which had a sexy, post-apocalyptic feeling established through parachute fabric dresses, wrinkled natural linen, long braided necklaces and leggings with leather insets. Crocheted black neckpieces and exaggerated shoulders made an impact, while items like a burlap pouf dress looked rushed.
Midday, the Wool Protégé show had a large crowd waiting to see a handful of sponsored looks from international talent, including Sandra Backlund and Jean Pierre Braganza . Normally showing in Europe, these designers brought masterful work to the runway, with Backlund unveiling more of her signature sculptural knits, this time knotted into scroll shapes, while Braganza's oversized lapel coats and envelope details were impressively sleek.
Leaving the RAFW venue, I was ushered off site courtesy of Sydney's Management and Publicity to see a group show in a modern furniture store. The first segment was a light and casual collection from Arnsdorf, recalling styles from the '70s via a tan and cream color palette and high waisted jeans. Key pieces included loose men's button downs, straight leg denim and a layered mini bandage skirt. Shadows and Dust, scored to the new Portishead album, proved much less feminine, with models clad in leather shorts and jackets. A white leather vest with curled detailing and skinny leather trousers flaunting elastic side panels looked especially fresh. Clean, relaxed modern pieces from Bassike closed the presentation, with jersey and a monochrome silver, grey and white palette punctuated by bright blue. Functional, graphic and simple, the collection seemed like a new type of easy uniform.
This very busy day was capped off with the most amazing and dramatically choreographed event courtesy of cult label Romance Was Born. Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales are the visionaries behind optimistic and layered looks which draw international attention. Once offered positions with John Galliano, the duo declined in order to concentrate on their own company. This season, the sought after talents hired out the Sydney Music Conservatory as a backdrop for their work. Entitled “Namaste,” the collection featured 45 models and a mythic story acted out with music, dancers, a full set, faux human sacrifice and a wedding. For Spring/Summer 2008, Romance Was Born made a true accomplishment in the art of global fashion.
Wrapping up the week, other notables included Karla Spetic, who focused on graphic construction and body-conscious silhouettes anchored by sky-high footwear as well as Tina Kalivas, formerly a member of Alexander McQueen's team, whose fresh perspective appeared through structured denim dresses with fringed epaulets.
Sydney's full fashion experience was fleshed out by all night throwdowns courtesy of Oyster magazine and modern label Antipodium, along with swimming in the Iceberg Club pool at Bondi Beach. The perfect combination of exploration, both fashion and otherwise, Rosemount Australian fashion week couldn't have been a more worthwhile stop on the international fashion calendar, an eye-opening look at talent in another hemisphere and a way of life the rest of the world can only hope to emulate.