How does a startup create a sustainable business model? Or, a more difficult question: how does a small business do that in the capricious realm of fashion? For young Australian designers, generating – and maintaining – interest internationally can be tricky.
The Australian Fashion Council is presenting a Q&A session during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on Thursday. It is chaired by Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Edwina McCann, who will talk to designer, Dion Lee. He will explain the particulars of his business. Net-a-Porter buying manager Sasha Sarokin, who stocks the Dion Lee label, will also be part of the conversation. Although open to the industry only, Broadsheet speaks to Sarokin about the best way for emerging labels to get a leg-up.
“For me, a new brand has to do something new, regardless of where it is based,” says Sarokin. “It needs to wow people by feeling authentic, and show a consistent design evolution. I’m looking forward to discussing all [commercial aspects] with young designers – from the number of collections they should be producing in a year, to collaborating with retailers such as netaporter.com to produce exclusive capsules. And developing products in new fabrications and colours.”
The issue of climate is becoming less problematic for local brands, as consumers adopt a “seasonless approach” to dressing – a pliable, year-round wardrobe, applicable to both hemispheres. More challenging is thinking beyond an Australian market conceptually, building an awareness of alternate consumers into one’s designs. According to Sarokin, Sydney’s Zimmermann does it well. It’s why the luxury e-tailer that employs her has been stocking it for a decade. “We’ve seen a consistent progression. The brand now shows its runway and ready-to-wear capsule in New York. Their clothes reference girls from Bondi Beach to Beverly Hills, they have a completely global approach.”
The ties that bind Net-a-Porter to Australia’s small but determined fashion industry grow deeper each year. Karla Spetic, Michael Lo Sordo, Ryan Storer and Dion Lee are all available on the site. These labels fuse creativity with broader commerciality. “Australian designers champion the epitome of cool,” says Sarokin. “We definitely see a distinction between their designs and those elsewhere: they channel a relaxed vibe that translates effortlessly.”