X usually marks the spot, but in the case of Camilla and Marc, the capital letter embossed behind their runway marked 10 years of showing at Fashion Week Australia and the commencement of this year's event. A decade is a lifetime in the fashion industry, one that began for the brother and sister duo at the New Generation show in 2003 with a collection of playful, strapless white polka dresses and hooded sleeveless blouses. Since their debut, the label has grown prodigiously, welcoming a swim label, a diffusion line, an online store, flagship stores and a key stockist in Net-a-Porter, all within their first 10 years.
The label's aesthetic has undergone a sophisticated evolution over the years, but luxury party wear, classic tailoring and separates have remained a constant. And while there were no polka dots or hoods in their latest offering, one could still recognise similarities to their debut all those years ago. White was once again a strong presence, best seen in a double-breasted slim-fit suit, numerous sleek leather pieces and as a glimpse from underneath a playful black skater mini dress. Strapless pieces were also on show, sculptured and moulded stiffly to the body. Fabrication has always been one of the label’s strong points and this season the star was an opulent gold jacquard. It was used in a swimsuit, pant, bustier, blazer and finished the show as a sleeveless mandarin collared coat-dress, paired back with black French lace peeking out from underneath. Such details prove that Camilla and Marc are just as playful as ever. It’s just that they've grown up a little (along with their customers).
At Christopher Esber, the aesthetic was just as slick, but with a twist of the industrial. Arriving at the Marrickville warehouse, which sported azure blue and orange scaffolding, you could have guessed that Esber was getting set to dip his toe into something a little more grunge. And while there were elements of the raw and rugged – frayed seams and what looked like grey hemp (actually hand-woven silk) – overall the look was a polished and progressive take on 80s minimalism.
Much like Camilla and Marc before him, there was a strong focus on fabrication, with experimental techniques such as plaid raffia masquerading as woven silk and a textural grid stamped on bonded synthetic, building upon his reputation for high-tech fabrics. The designer also flirted with colour this season. Grey, lemon, silver, blues and even a sheer plaid print leant a different inflection to his renowned monochromatic aesthetic. While his signatures were all there, this collection did feel like a slightly different direction for Esber – one that was far more multifaceted (the devil was in many details) but with a softness to it as well. You could see it in the subtle drape of various pantsuits, bejewelled necklines and billowing cocoon coats.
Multifaceted is a word that could also be used to describe the psychedelic wonderland that is the work of Romance Was Born. As Tim Blanks aptly wrote for Vogue Australia last year: "A Romance Was Born production is never going to be an exercise in subtlety." This season Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales took it to the stars, over the rainbow and beyond, collaborating with installation artist Tanya Schultz to present a hyper-coloured collection and a far-from-subtle show. While last summer the label was commended on its more commercial, super-hero move, this season's offerings headed full-steam ahead into fantasy land – a move that could make sense considering notable musicians such as Grimes and Bat for Lashes both donned Romance War Born's dramatic designs during their recent Australian tours.
Like something out of a fairytale, the collection saw Peggy Moffitt-esque harlequins prance out in pastels, sequins, pearls, head-to-toe florals and sometimes all three at once. As a showcase, it looked sweet enough to eat. As a clothing collection, it looked like a dream dress-up box. Among the sea of floral flares, sequinned smock dresses and harlequin ruffle collars, it was hard to envision wearability beyond the streets of Harajuku. There were a few moments that touched on reality though: a digital printed blazer and min-skirt that, when separated, could make their way into stores. But for the most part, Romance Was Born had their head in the multi-coloured clouds. If only real life could be this dreamy.