There’s no denying the Australian fashion industry has gone through tough times in recent years. From Lisa Ho to Alannah Hill, we’ve seen several major designers exit the industry for good. And the clusters of dark shop fronts on once-bourgeoning high streets speak volumes.

It’s not dire, though. Like any industry, from print publishing to music, it’s just staying flexible, open-minded and reactive to shifting audiences and technologies.
So how do you capitalise on the enthusiasm for online shopping? How does a fashion brand stand out in a competitive market? How do you turn a passion for blogging into a viable career? The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival’s Business Events Series will answer these questions and get you involved in the discussion, too. Like the Festival’s Cultural Program, it has become an integral part of the festival experience, acknowledging that beyond the glamour of the catwalk lies hard work and the need for a sharp business mind.

This year one of the pioneers of e-commerce, Ruth Chapman, who transformed a UK-based bricks-and-mortar boutique into a global online shopping mecca, will appear as part of the full-day Business Seminar on March 17. Chapman was at the forefront of “omni-channel” retailing across numerous platforms, turning one local London-based designer boutique into a massive online brand. Like other big-name, online fashion retailers, ASOS and Net-a-Porter included, Australia is one of MATCHESFASHION.COM’s biggest markets.

Chapman will be joined by Global Levi’s President James Curleigh, who reinvigorated the brand for a new generation after a GFC-led downturn. Also attending will be David Chu, who works as a creative director and CEO at numerous companies including Georg Jensen and lifestyle brand Nautica. On March 18, early birds can get along to the Marketing Breakfast, where Curleigh will reappear, joined by Martin Newman, the CEO of UK-based company Practicology, which specialises in providing e-commerce strategies to the likes of Burberry and Harrods. Three of Australia’s most fascinating women in fashion will appear at the Fashion Industry Forums also on March 18, to discuss the influence of social media in “getting the message out” and how to avoid compromising your creative vision as your business expands.

Margaret Zhang has become internationally renowned in recent years as a fashion blogger who has harnessed the popularity of her website, ShineByThree, into a viable career as a stylist, creative consultant, model, and, by proxy, international street-style star.

Zhang will be joined by Australian-born, London-based creative director and consultant Jemma Dyas and stylist and fashion icon Catherine Baba. Both have made their mark at an international level – Dyas as a brand consultant, retailer and now creative director of etre cecile (which will show on the runway at VAMFF) and Baba as the glamorous fashion stylist famous for translating her own inimitable style into astoundingly creative fashion editorials.

For full program and ticketing details at vamff.com.au