Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia (MBFWA) has come a long way since its inception 24 years ago. Just a decade ago shows were far less cosmopolitan, attracting fewer international buyers and less media talent, and they perpetuated a perception of Australian fashion as being solely about swimwear. But that’s changed. Over the past few years – driven in particular by these designers building global fan bases with their savvy knack for Instagram and other digital channels – we’ve seen a real shift: between 2017 and 2018 MBFWA saw a 35 per cent rise in international media attendance, and a five per cent growth in global buyers.
The all-important move to the “resort calendar” four years ago – which means Australian fashion week now shows resort wear (also known as "cruise" collections) to match up with overseas seasons – shows that the world is interested in Australia’s take on resort wear.
“Not only has fashion week changed, but the external perception of it has changed too,” Ana Agricola, head of business development at London-based online retailer Farfetch, tells Broadsheet. “A few years ago people would put Australia in the ‘swim and resort wear’ box, but there’s clearly so much more: designers are focusing on the luxury market, others are focusing on the contemporary segment – there’s a lot more variety and the industry is more mature now.”
Agricola says resort wear is typically the strongest-performing category for Australian labels, which were introduced to Farfetch four year ago. “I feel like this is the collection the designers invest a lot of time and resources in and it really shows,” she explains. “It’s also a great time commercially as deliveries arrive at a time [in October] when everyone is craving something new and different.”
Online retailer Net-a-Porter currently stocks 50 Australian fashion and beauty brands and that number continues to grow. “The [Australian] market remains a high priority for us and we’re consistently impressed by new designers we’re introduced to every time we visit MBFWA,” said Net-a-Porter’s global buying director, Elizabeth von der Goltz, in an official statement.
And so after an inspiring week of MBFWA, we’re highlighting some of the most relevant resort trends of the season. We’ve seen designers reinvent the two-piece power suit with shorts, bring back terry towelling and serve up tonal palettes. Get ahead for the summer or shelve this guide until your next trip to warmer climates.
We’re seeing some great luxury daywear labels offering a fresh alternative to the two-piece pantsuit for summer: the short suit. Less pretentious than your traditional pantsuit, shorts and a blazer bridge the gap between daywear and nightwear. And they’re an easy way to introduce colour into your wardrobe, thanks to the balancing effect of the classic, tailored silhouette.
Sydney label Anna Quan – known for reinventing the white shirt – featured two tailored iterations in its resort ’20 collection: stretch pedal pushers and long-line shorts, which will be available in October. Leave the blazer open and wear a white T-shirt or ribbed singlet underneath, and add a pair of solid white sneakers or strappy sandals. If you don’t feel like making a statement, consider each piece as a standalone investment: wear the blazer with jeans and the tailored shorts with a singlet, T-shirt or blouse.
Bec + Bridge’s modern take on the board short – a stretchy satin and bonded scuba surfer-girl alternative to the miniskirt for summer – can be styled with a tailored blazer for a similar effect, too.
Photography: Lucas Dawson
From the runway to the street, boots have climbed past the knee. Bec + Bridge styled its ’70s-inspired black and white over-the-knee boots with summer separates, including ’70s-style miniskirts. But if you want to dial up the drama settle on a pair of Pretty Woman-style high-shine vinyl boots, which we spotted on the streets.
This season there were earthy, tonal colours across the collections, in some instances inspired by the burnt Australian Outback. “We saw a beautiful palette, from golden hues at Aje to more burnt notes from Matteau and Bondi Born,” says Agricola, who is on the lookout for the military-green two-piece she saw at Aje. “A terracotta oversized jacket or trench is also high on my list.”
If you’re wearing tonal hues head to toe, consider adding dimension with a pair of bright sandals to set off the otherwise neutral palette.
Double Rainbouu and Bassike both introduced iterations of one of this season’s most popular accessories – the classic bucket hat. As ’90s nostalgia reaches a climax, this retro staple (synonymous with Britney Spears and hip-hop artists) is best reserved for more casual daytime attire. Go for a muted colour such as white and team with a pair of white jeans and a T-shirt or shirt, or mix and match patterns.
Sydney beachwear label Double Rainbouu championed terry towelling in its resort presentation at the Chinese Garden of Friendship in Darling Harbour. The show was awash with tie-dye robes in aqua and pastel pink, and retro tennis-style short-sleeve shirts teamed with dresses, shorts and matching bucket hats. This material makes an ideal beach cover-up (and cancels out the need for a towel), but it’s also streetwear-appropriate when styled with slides or espadrilles.
“We’re still seeing the volume trend come through in different shows,” says Agricola. “Like the balloon dresses at Aje and Lee Matthews, or the puffy sleeves at Bec + Bridge and Jonathan Simkhai.”
A flared statement sleeve will never go out of fashion. Aje has added a bohemian flair to shirting and dresses, and at Bec + Bridge’s adornments add a romantic flair to dresses.
A sculptural sleeve is an easy way to dress up a pair of jeans at night, adding texture and dimension to any ensemble. But a puffed sleeve is not the most practical of choices, begging two questions: what to do about outerwear and how do I sit down for a meal without my sleeve getting in my food? The solution is: drape an oversized blazer or coat over your shoulders, or reserve this look for a stand-up cocktail party.
Strappy, ’90s-style sandals and slinky kitten heels are making a play for a place in summer wardrobes. Ruling runways, “barely there” footwear is a versatile investment: it can be worn during the day with low-key bohemian dresses and wide-leg jeans or culottes, or a black cocktail dress at night.
The cut-out movement continues, moving into the swimwear category courtesy of Karla Spetic and Matteau. Not the most modest of silhouettes (and not great for tan lines), this style involves wrap-effect bodices complete with relaxed ties that highlight your frame. The beauty lies in their versatility: wear with a sarong at the beach and repurpose in the afternoon and night with a pair of denim cut offs, a bohemian floor-skimming maxi skirt or loose-fitted linen trousers. A denim jacket can make the look a little more modest, too.
Cut-out detailing was the standout statement of the runway, from Karla Spetic and Christopher Esber to Bec + Bridge and Jonathan Simkhai. A fragment of stomach shone through silk slip dresses at Bec + Bridge, and Christopher Esber opted for signature suiting with encrusted diamante holes and black jumpsuits with bold knots.
If you’re after an instant style update without breaking the bank or looking like you’re trying too hard, consider embellishing your hair with a clip or slide: a utilitarian and (often more) affordable accessory than a pair of earrings or a bag.
Karla Spetic decorated her models’ hair with delicate pearl slides, and Anna Quan added a Grecian edge to knitwear with simple gold hair bars, which offset curls. These trans-seasonal pieces can go with anything – from a black-tie or cocktail dresses to jeans and a crisp white shirt.