Virgin Australia Fashion Festival's Premium Runway shows kicked off last night at Central Pier Docklands. There were two separate parades, making a strong opening statement about what Australian fashion is all about: easy-to-wear separates, smart-casual style, sophisticated city dressing and lots of black. From the polished sophistication of Scanlan Theodore to Alpha60’s cult cool, some of this country’s finest labels showed their wares to a packed audience that included model-of-the-moment, Andreja Pejić.

Stayed tuned this week for Broadsheet’s coverage of the shows: the highlights, the lowlights, front-row faces and new designers to watch.

PREMIUM RUNWAY 1
Presented by Miss Vogue

Scanlan Theodore
The Scanlan woman is sharp, sexy, powerful – and she loves black. Slim-line pants paired with furry tunic tops provided an interesting contrast of textures. Slinky body-con dresses, chic trench coats and black leather jackets screamed inner-city luxe.

In a word: sophisticated.

Etre Cecile
Along with Tome, Etre Cecile was one of only two international brands on the runway last night. The brainchild of London-based stylist/creative director duo (and Aussie expats) Yasmin Sewell and Jemma Dyas, this collection was a surprise packet that will appeal to women who love higher-end street style. Voluminous black skirts were paired with printed statement tees, a fun red lipstick print sweater, military-style khakis and high-collared anoraks. The overall effect was a mix of urban-sports style with evening-wear glamour.

In a word: street smart.

Bassike
A palate cleanser, Bassike deployed models wearing creams and greys, with raw-edged tunic tops, chunky wool scarves and relaxed-fit pants. Bassike has perfected the art of breezy, casual elegance; think a pleated dress over slimline pants or a simple shirtdress.

In a word: streamlined.

Tome
Recently, the work of New York-based Australian designers Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin has appeared on the pages of US Vogue, hit the runways at New York Fashion Week, and been in the running for the prestigious CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Award. Last night, all eyes were on Tome’s first appearance on the VAMFF runway. But compared to the other collections on show, there was a less unified feel to the looks coming out. A pink pleated skirt was followed by an eye-catching metallic gold trench and sheer black lace. There was also a saffron pleated goddess gown. Despite a lack of cohesion, it all looked effortlessly feminine and impeccably detailed – the aesthetic that has already become Tome’s brand DNA.

In a word: fragmented.

Camilla and Marc
Camilla and Marc can always be relied upon to provide chic, wearable, on-trend pieces. Black jumpsuits, aubergine wrap dresses and one-shouldered evening gowns upped the glamour quotient. Urbane, slick and polished, Camilla and Marc delivered its trademark polish.

In a word: sleek.

Dion Lee
This was Dion Lee doing what he does best – form-fitting dresses with interesting cut-outs, strapping and architectural construction details. A cobalt dress with a thigh-high split was a breath-taker. No real surprises here, other than a masculine suit with ‘80s-era padded shoulders.

In a word: signature.


PREMIUM RUNWAY 2
Presented by Frankie Magazine

Kuwaii
This collection was almost sailor-style-like, with tonal blues, floppy hats, clogs and chunky knits dominating. What struck most? Like many other comparatively young labels on show last night, the impressive quality of cut and fabric – not always a given.

In a word: cool.

Alpha60
The Melbourne institution never fails to please. This collection had an ‘’art gallery curator” feel to it: voluminous black tunic dresses, fine pinstripes on wide pleated pants, solid, sensible shoes and a couple of stunning grey wrap coats with white edging that will be perfect for the colder Melbourne months.

In a word: arty.

Kloke
Who thought mustard-brown could be a desirable colour? Kloke made it work with three-quarter skirts under white shirting and navy knits, crop tops paired with wide-legged pants and simple sweaters. Layered, androgynous and minimal, this collection has a pioneering spirit.

In a word: quality.

Búl
Búl’s girls came out with braided hair and flushed pink cheeks, and then out came the night’s highlight: a lush, deep-red wool cape, a little bit Red Riding Hood, a little bit ‘60s mod. It stood out like a beacon. Beautifully made wrap coats, simple white shirting, neat sweaters and sleeveless trench coats paired with long tunics and mid-length skirts.

In a word: gorgeous.

Limedrop
No one told Limedrop florals were traditionally for spring, because a painterly blue floral print reappeared as a leitmotif through its collection, showing up on bomber jackets; three-quarter sleeved tops; simple, cosy separates; and its signature reflective sunglasses. Limedrop is for the cool indie girl who doesn’t want to look like she’s trying too hard.

In a word: poppy.

Gorman
Gorman’s collaboration with artist Miranda Skoczek was the highlight of an already strong show, lifting a runway primarily dominated by neutrals into a riot of colour. Out came vivid, multi-hued jumpsuits, a beautiful pink wool coat, tropical culottes paired with candy-floss pink leather jackets, pom-pom scarves and squiggle-print leggings. Fun and bold.

In a word: spirit-lifting.

RUNWAY TAKEAWAYS

Expected: Dion Lee’s polish and Alpha 60’s arty cool.

Unexpected: Tome was chic and solid, but given its international reputation, not a mind-blowing standout.

Highlight: The rich red Búl cape was a standout, and Gorman’s finale for Premium Runway 2 was a colour fiesta.

Overheard: “The VIP bar has free drinks and food … I was amazed!”

Spotted: Andreja Pejić pouting for what felt like 100 flashing cameras, and model Bambi Northwood-Blyth looking front-row flawless.

Soundtrack: minimal, ambient techno with a few jolts of drum‘n’bass.

Head here for our full VAMFF 2015 runway coverage.

vamff.com.au