The first full day of LMFF was about as diverse as they come – starting off at Tiffany’s for the National Designer Award announcement and ending in a transformed Fitzroy warehouse for the Midmouse Runway at Penthouse Mouse.

Young Sydney designer Christopher Esber was announced as the winner of this year’s National Designer Award, following in the footsteps of previous winners Toni Maticevski, Josh Goot and Romance Was Born. Emerging from a strong field of contenders – Above., Lui Hon, Magdalena Velevska and Michael Lo Sordo), Esber’s fabric-focused designs, minimalist aesthetic and international outlook saw him take out the prize. It’s sure to be a big boost to the 24-year-old, who reportedly plans to expand into menswear.

The first of the week’s seven L’Oreal Paris Runways kicked off at Central Pier in the Docklands early in the evening. Presented by Grazia, Runway 1 exuded a polished, occasionally quirky vibe. Karen Walker was a clear highlight, her signature mix of prints, colour and slouchy outerwear topped off with retro headscarves. Fellow New Zealander Kate Sylvester’s pastel-hued workwear was complemented by on-trend sheer dresses and bare midriffs. Ginger and Smart brought some printed silk fun, while Manning Cartel’s street-inspired cocktail looks seemed easy and wearable. Carl Kapp was also a standout with his 70’s-esque dresses and pantsuits, finished off with coats worn perched on the shoulders and big brass chokers. Nicola Finetti and Arthur Galan AG stuck to what they know with textured, market-friendly, pieces.

For the second runway of the night, Alex Perry was the star in his own solo show. Following his first showing at LMFF in 2011, Perry has come back with even more shimmer and shine this year, showcasing a collection for Spring/Summer 2012/13. Audiences who had come to the show to see his signature ultra-feminine collection were not disappointed, as the first bridal-inspired gowns walked out onto the runway. Perry’s collection modernised the traditional feminine shape by making long, sleek silhouettes, often starting from a strong, structured bustier or corset; softened by mesh sleeves and floating layers of peek-a-boo mesh skirts. Intricate beading, sequins and the occasional floral appliqués across the bodice added to the delicate feel of the gowns, while adding some of Perry’s signature ‘bling’ factor to an otherwise muted pallette. While the rest of the collection moved away from the bridal look, it still stayed within the ‘red carpet’ category. It’s certainly nothing new, but no one was complaining that Perry was doing what he does best, flattering the female figure whilst adding a little pizzazz.

Although not far geographically, the Fitzroy warehouse where Penthouse Mouse hosted their Midmouse Runway, seemed a world away from the polish and shine of the Docklands venue. Show Two opened with Alistair Trung, whose first model wore a face-covering veil made of hair. The black, floaty pieces were complemented by leather and fur accents, not straying far from the designer’s dark aesthetic. National Designer Award nominees Above. like to deconstruct the classics and in doing so provided the most wearable clothes of the show. Backless vests and trenches were thrown over sheer shirtdresses and twists on the basic button-up. Where Lovers Lie ran the gauntlet from sequined dresses to velvet high-waisted pants, while Neo Dia’s neoprene and mohair looks were an interesting mix of out-there and surprisingly flattering. Raggatt’s focus on construction was apparent – sometimes successful (a beautiful navy empire dress) and sometimes difficult to pull off (oversized school-boy shorts didn’t really hit the mark. Trimapee brought some boys to the runway, with both sexes wearing a beautiful ink stain-like print on draped pieces, often topped with leather. The crowd favourite was undoubtedly local ladies Di$count and their over-the-top, colourful and sequined-to-the-max pieces. The cheers were loudest for pieces like the sequined Mickey Mouse dress (complete with mouse ears on the model) and leather jackets with all over studs.

LMFF is only just getting started, but day two showed us just how diverse, and fun, fashion can be.

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