A strong whiff of late 1960s/early 1970s has been blowing through the international collections of late, with Gucci, Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton and Chloe all riffing on the free-spirited boho girl and black clad witchy rock chick in recent seasons. That breeze was blowing through last night’s Harper’s BAZAAR show at VAMFF too, where designers channeled the likes of Nico and Stevie Nicks via floaty layers, floppy felt hats, sexy black leather boots and kohl-rimmed eyes. In all, the most sensual show so far this week.

Presented by Harper’s BAZAAR

Christopher Esber

It’s safe to say that Esber has followed most closely in the footsteps of Dion Lee in terms of industry hype and adulation. The young designer has already won all manner of awards and accolades, and it’s easy to see why. Esber’s tribe of raven-haired models, eyes ringed with heavy black and channeling Nico at her mysterious best, took to the runway in luxurious camel-coloured wrap coats and semi-sheer black dresses paired with glossy, knee-high black leather boots, fetishistic black gloves and edgy jewellery courtesy of MANIAMANIA.

In a word: Seductive.

Yeojin Bae

Melbourne designer Yeojin Bae has become known for feminine dresses that evoke a romantic Parisian ingénue, but her new collection is surprisingly sexy. Midriffs were exposed, necklines got a little lower, soft peach was spliced with edgier black, and erogenous zones were highlighted (were those side-splits on the skirts just a little higher than usual?). The Yeojin girl is still classy and classic, but she’s getting just a little more risqué. Highlight? Model Yaya Deng in a black dress cut away at one shoulder.

In a word: Femme fatale.

Martin Grant

It’s a strange anomaly that Martin Grant isn’t a household name in Australia. Yet. Born in Melbourne, he studied briefly at Victorian College of the Arts before decamping to Paris and slowly building a international reputation for his pure, minimal style. Celebrity clients – Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton – came calling, and he was recently tapped to design the new uniforms for Qantas flight staff. Tonight’s showing was polished and simple: a cropped grey wool jacket paired with tailored pants, belted bustier tops and ladylike 1950s-style pencil skirts giving off a sexy secretary vibe, and high-waisted pants were matched with an elegant white blouse. Grant’s finale was a strapless quilted evening gown: a high-drama moment in an otherwise subdued collection.

In a word: Ladylike.

Carla Zampatti

Carla Zampatti is celebrating half a century in the business this year – no mean feat in a notoriously difficult-to-survive industry. What keeps Carla going strong? No doubt it’s her combination of never-fail classics (the well cut pant, the tailored blazer, the feminine silk shirt) and design tweaks that nod in the direction of current trends. Tonight’s collection had that strong 70s boho vibe that is so on-trend right now: pussybow blouses, flared pants, leather-look wrap skirts, racerback evening gowns, one particularly lovely blue and black ombre shift dress, and the ubiquitous black, floppy felt hat.

In a word: Bewitching.

Alex Perry

A couple of seasons ago, Alex Perry decided he wanted to appeal to a younger market. His 2013 showing at Australian Fashion Week was a watershed moment that gained him a new fanbase who previously thought of him as the designer who “did” race-day and evening-wear and not much else. Back then, he showed a sporty, sexy, youthful collection of skater skirts, crop tops, lace babydoll dresses and athletic-looking crop tops that garnered his best reviews in years. Problem? He hasn’t really moved on. Last night felt like a reprise of that collection, with very little to differentiate it. It’s like Perry has decided that he’s found a groove, and he’s sticking to it. But as the old saying goes: if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

In a word: Predictable.


Expected: Alex Perry’s zips, lace and bodycon combo.

Unexpected: Yeojin Bae’s Parisian-inspired muse just got a whole lot sexier.

Highlight: Christopher Esber’s dark-haired, smoky-eyed first model prowling her way down the catwalk to The Velvet Underground’s Venus in Furs

Overheard: “You stop serving drinks 10 minutes before the show? What is the point of a VIP bar if I can’t get a drink 10 minutes before the show?” [yes really]

Spotted: The glamorous Australian-born, Paris-based style star Catherine Baba in her trademark vintage kimono, turban and dark sunnies.

Soundtrack: Opened with intrigue and promise (Velvet Underground), ended with a blur of generic high-BPM runway doof music.

Head here for our full VAMFF 2015 runway coverage.