Fashion can be a cruel mistress. It seems new labels rise and fall in this town as often as the temperature. So, to satisfy our collective preoccupation with unearthing the latest thing and in the spirit of supporting our own in the lead-up to the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, Broadsheet is pleased to introduce a few new kids on the local designer block. Be glad these fledglings are not another printed t-shirt ‘label’.
On the back of their debut collection, Becky Chua and Gavin Lowes were recently invited to showcase Neo Dia as one of only six international avant-garde labels on the Modefabriek catwalk at Amsterdam Fashion Week. The designer duo, who were drawn together by a mutual aesthetic while studying at RMIT, said their fashion week experience was “like a flash of excitement … as corny as it is, we both shared a high-five when the last piece walked out!”
Their sophomore collection, titled Rhythmic Algorithm, plays with the idea of “recurrent strong and weak accents intertwined with mathematical art and the structures created by graphs. We mused over images of sound waves and played with old spirographs from our toy boxes.”
Ex-banker-turned-designer is a label Samantha Hardman will have to get used to. Her riches to rag-trade story is one that captures the imagination of every stifled office worker yearning to release their creativity from behind the anonymous desk.
The concept of Bento comes from a dream about running away: “if [I] were to leave in the night and pack only a small bag, what pieces in [my] wardrobe would make the cut?” As such every aspect of a Bento item – from what material to fashion swing-tags out of to whether that sleeve is just long enough – is agonised over to ensure they slot seamlessly into the modern wardrobe.
Not one for green-washing, Samantha goes above and beyond to ensure her designs are ethically made and sustainable in every way possible; each Bento piece is even crafted within a ten-kilometre radius of her Melbourne studio.
Stephanie Carello has been designing under the Alabakov label since 2009 but it was only late last year that the designer launched her first seasonal collection, dubbed Porcelain Lady. Why the wait? Stephanie certainly hasn’t been resting on her laurels. Up until recently the label has been following a unique business model: releasing limited-edition capsule collections on a monthly basis online.
“Sophisticated” and “whimsical” is how the designer describes Porcelain Lady. “Peek-boo silk organza panels and full-waisted skirts” are key features, while a kimono jacket and a delicate metallic wrap-dress are showcase pieces to be treasured.
Annie Abbott has thing for shoes; but not for the luxury price tags of your typical pair of Jimmy Choos. After years working behind the scenes for fashion industry heavyweights Net-a-Porter and Sass & Bide, Annie has realised her dream of designing footwear her own, precise way.
While the price has dropped a notch, the quality of her Italian-crafted shoes remains high-end. Each Habbot design in the theatrical Velvet Underground debut collection is named after a Melbourne landmark. So you can now slip on a pair of gold Degraves Street brogues to wander the laneways or lace up your shiny new Rue Bebelon pumps to go dancing.
There’s nothing quite like aiming for the sky. Young designer Pamela Usanto aspires to “re-introduce an appreciation of couture to Australian women”. It’s only the beginning of her mission, but her designs have already graced the red carpet at the AFI Awards and been nominated for the hotly contested Designer Award at the Melbourne Cup.
Yet it is the everyday pieces in her Madame Rose range that catch our eye. Finding “a huge influence” in French Baroque artists (think Nicolas Poussin or Claude Lorrain) and the more recent fashion of the 1950s, Pamela cultivates her pieces from lace and silk in her Bridge Road showroom.