Rumours that some of the top designers to show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia were going to pull out were confirmed yesterday with the announcements that Josh Goot and Dion Lee will no longer be showing.

Cancelling their shows just two weeks before the official start of MBFWA, which kicks off 30 April, Goot and Lee – two of the most anticipated designers scheduled to show – have said it is not in their best interest to take part in this year’s event.

While their withdrawal is sure to disappoint attendees, the announcements are not overly surprising. Lee recently presented at London Fashion Week in February, and has since committed to showing again in London in September, so pulling off another show in between in such a short time was always going to be a challenge. Meanwhile, Goot released his spring/summer ‘12 lookbook – the collection to be shown at MBFWA – last week, raising suspicion that he would pull out.

In statements released yesterday both Goot and Lee mentioned the timing of MBFWA – something that has been widely debated in Australia’s fashion industry for years. Buyers place orders for spring/summer collections in March yet MBFWA isn’t held until early May meaning that showing at fashion week is purely a marketing strategy, and without substantial sponsorship it’s a costly one at that. Many designers have said that they would like to see the event brought forward at least a month so there are more opportunities to increase sales.

In a statement, Goot said the spring/summer ‘12 collection was the label’s most extensive and commercially successful collection to date. “This is the right decision for the Josh Goot brand, business and team,” the designer said. “We’ve had an amazing response to spring/summer ‘12, and I think it’s important that we consolidate our position, rather than rush into a new collection to show at MBFWA.”

Instead Goot says he will be presenting a collection in June to coincide with the international Resort schedule. “The entire studio and I want to focus on the new Resort collection without the distraction of a show,” he added.

Given that Goot has a high profile here and that the collection has already impressed buyers, it is understandable that the designer wants to shift his focus to compete on an international level.

Similarly, Lee said his decision to withdraw from the schedule was so that he could concentrate on his new collection for London Fashion Week in September, yet he stressed that showing at Australian Fashion Week still has its advantages.

“I have presented solo shows at Australian Fashion Week for the past three years and each of these have been of great benefit to my business in terms of building its profile on a local and international level,” Lee said. “I hope to return to the Australian show schedule in the near future.”

In response to Lee’s and Goot’s departure, Jarrad Clark, Global Production Director of IMG Fashion, said IMG are disappointed that the designers will not be showing but that they understand the business reasons as to why they have decided to withdraw.

“As event organisers of fashion weeks all over the world, we understand that the business objectives of our designers are evolving and we work to create solutions for them that best leverages our global platform and suits the focus of their business at any given time,” Clark said in a statement. “IMG Fashion will continue our discussions with the industry to best refine the MBFWA platform, and strategically create opportunities for showcasing designers.”

While IMG has previously said that next year’s MBFWA will address the issue of timing, the sudden departure of such high profile designers is a big blow for the company, and it might just be what it takes to put these plans into action.

It will be interesting to see what they come up with.