So as the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival (LMFF) has now passed for another year and we gently wrap the beautiful people up in soft, cosseting tissue, we should ask how it went.
Ask a thousand or so paying patrons at the Central Pier Catwalk presentations and they’ll tell you about a good time. Fashion is an attractive world. It lures you in, tempting you with promises of beauty and distinction. It’s a cruel mistress most of the time, but for those attending the shows this was their Sex and the City moment, complete with champagne and mineral water in cute bottles with straws; partaking in not-so-silent judgement of those around; and excruciatingly loud dance music that, if it weren’t a fashion show, would be considered terribly passé. Clichés don’t mean a thing and the people are happy. That’s no bad thing, but fashion can do this; fashion can be anything it wants. Case in point: take a traditionally industry-only event, turn it into entertainment and then sell it back to the general public without so much as raising an eyebrow and, my friend, you are on to something.
But isn’t fashion the velvet rope at The Ivy? Well that’s not what we have here. The floodgates have been opened and despite the success and sell out rooms, at what cost? At what point is it too big and the gloss tarnished? Being exclusive means it’s special and when everyone is doing it, it ceases to be exclusive. Maybe, like American banks claimed, the industry is too big to fail. Maybe the clue is in the title itself, the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. This is a Fashion Festival. This is a celebration of fashion and style, ultimately bringing everyone together under one common interest.
It’s either incredibly brilliant or evil genius. It’s probably both, a Jekyll and Hyde act. You will be hard pressed to find a more committed audience: they pay to see what you’re selling, they buy before they come and leave wanting to buy what they just saw, and they do all this with a smile. Maybe the key lies with the Jekyll side of the industry, the masterminds and brains of fashion: the LMFF Business Seminar.
This event is without question an absolute highlight of the festival. This year was no different, with speakers of extraordinary calibre, such as Paul Bennett of Ideo, Francisco Costa, creative director of Calvin Klein Collection and Christian Blanckaert from Hermes. Inspiring people who tore down and exposed the misconception of snobbery versus exclusivity. Each was incredibly approachable and oozing with experience, not to mention charm and charisma, with their talks tailored to their audiences. And they each brought it home with the confidence and insouciance of those who have achieved their dream. The truly great are here to help, because they understand that there’s no point to knowledge and experience if it can’t be shared. Each guest shared and validated their enviable positions.
These two opposing sides of the festival actually perform in a successful, synergistic, harmonious fashion. The concern that the shows are getting too big is waived. Fashion is entertainment – as Sojin Lee, cofounder of FASHIONAIR.com, explained – and entertainment is fashion. This is the next wave and the LMFF is riding it with finesse. To understand where fashion is going, how it is working locally and internationally, we must take in the whole week. It’s not without flaws but it is entertaining, enlightening and, believe it or not, educational.