“Eclectic” has always been the best way to describe the fashion scene in Australia. We have a knack for high-low dressing, and blending the formal with the athletic. This open-minded aesthetic has allowed a broad church of new designers to flourish. Recently, pieces from designers who have distinct, often diametrically opposed viewpoints happily sit alongside each other in the same wardrobes.
The thread connecting our current new faves is the way they’re tapping into that remixed method of dressing. Acknowledging our need for clothes that fit numerous needs, these designs are innately versatile; they can be worn anywhere and any time. Here are four new Aussie (and one New Zealand) designers putting a stamp on the country’s sartorial scene.
Sydney-based Alix Higgins’s pieces are digital culture manifested in clothing form. Specifically, the internet’s glory days of Tumblr and even Myspace. If you’ve been missing self-designed digital walls covered in graphic catchlines like “God”, “Baby” and the rather brilliant “I Was Late To The Party But Still I Drank The Most”, Higgins might scratch that nostalgic itch.
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Higgins is particularly famous for digital print treatment across the surface of his fabrics that give the impression the clothes are travelling at warp speed. A good way to view Higgins’s perennially genderless kit – cut to ensure no two garments are exactly the same – is as a colourful jigsaw to create a cohesive wardrobe of figure-hugging nylon shirts and skirts and hoodies, as well as recently introduced, more tailored elements such as coats, trousers and even a rugby shirt.
Kourh is the result of blending Y2K aesthetics with goth sensibilities. Founded by industry veteran Tarek Kourhani, Kourh has become a favourite for bringing back the fun of dressing for a night out. Its revival of bedazzled branding and club-ready dresses is a playful front for clothes that, on close inspection, reveal both incredible craftsmanship and Kourhani’s vision as a designer. Three brand pillars dictate every season: functionality, sensuality and humour.
Alongside the genderless ready-to-wear line there’s also the option to grab made-to-order pieces. But all designs are only available in limited runs. Minimising waste plays a huge part in the Kourh worldview, and each collection is made from predominantly deadstock textiles.
There’s nothing quite like a really great shoe to elevate even the dustiest outfit. And sneakers, for all their hype, aren’t quite the footwear to do it. Enter Etymology, a new footwear label bringing a sense of refinement back to the everyday wardrobe. Launched by Gabriel Abi-Saab and brothers William and Albert Phung, Etymology thus far includes a range of loafers and classic oxfords, all handcrafted in Spain from superior suedes and Spanish, Italian and South American leathers.
According to creative director Abi-Saab, inspiration for the shoe was personal: “When I put together our first range of shoes, I instantly knew my starting point: my parents. My dad always wore a specific pair of loafers he found in Lebanon daily, even when going to the greengrocers. I saw that he took pride in the way he dressed.”
Behind the playful prints and comfortable fits of New Zealand brand Earls Collection is a moving story of loss and hope. After losing both his father and grandfather to mental health, professional rugby player Lewi Brown turned his back on a brilliant football career to follow his dream of becoming a fashion designer.
But if you were expecting just another range of sweats with a bit of shirting thrown in for good measure, think again. Earls is a far more interesting cocktail, with inspired streetwear and holiday pieces that include crocheted shirting, floral prints and oversized knits. Underpinning the collection is Brown’s athletic background, promising a more relaxed silhouette.
High-quality products that look good while adhering to sustainable and responsible design principles? That’s the promise from new accessory brand Type1.0 and its founder, tradie and musician Jackson Mcleod.
Operating from Perth, Type1.0 offers a simple premise of well-made, good-looking unisex products, including two bags (a duffle and a tote) made from PU leather that mimics the qualities of genuine leather, plus a line of eyewear that takes inspiration from classic shapes but with a modern touch. Wayfarers, cat-eye and aviator styles are reinterpreted with a chunkier frame made from 100 per cent acetate, while the lenses are a combination of alloy and nylon.