Zimmermann, Tome, sass & bide and Dion Lee among the Aussie fashion labels cracking the lucrative US market
It might be a case of flagrant hyperbole to label it an “Aussie invasion”, but the Australian designers who took part in this week’s New York fashion week achieved what was previously unthinkable – matching some of the world’s most renowned fashion labels with four solo shows.
The largest on-schedule contingent of Australian designers to ever take part in the spring, ready-to-wear collections was another example of how significant cracking the lucrative US market is for expanding Aussie brands.
Leading the pack on day two was Zimmermann, who despite their 20-year career were relegated as “newcomers” as they launched a small-scale but well-received show at the Lincoln Center. The Sydney-based sisters, Nicky and Simone Zimmermann, have been focused on the US market since opening a Los Angeles boutique in 2011, followed by another in New York.
Careful not to rewrite an aesthetic that has been working for more than two decades, Zimmermann stayed on theme. That is, flirty, feminine shapes, diaphanous textures (silk and organza) and hero swimwear. Shimmery metallics popped against a peachy colour palette, in a collection that was awash with Zimmermann trademarks: eye-catching prints, cut-out shapes, handkerchief hems and, as always, a wink to the past.
Just three years in and Tome founders Ramon Martin and Ryan Lobo have a momentum moving them in exciting directions. During the competitive tussle for pre-show publicity, they were, quite simply, everywhere.
Showcasing during fashion week (in their adopted hometown of New York) seemed a logical next step for the brand and they gathered a team of Aussie loyalists (including creative director Michelle Jank and hairstylist Sophie Roberts) for their presentation-style show.
The collection, inspired by Cuban-American performance artist Ana Mendieta, was one of restrained sophistication. The reference is significant considering the designers’ artistic approach to design; colour is used sparingly but thoughtfully, while technique helps influence texture and shape.
Tuesday saw the return of sass & bide, who gathered a star-studded front row including Iggy Azalea, Zoe Kravitz and Poppy Delevingne, after a six-year hiatus. The return to New York is not inconsequential; the brand is keen to increase exposure before the opening of their first international flagship store in New York, later this year.
This was a mature collection for sass & bide, neatly styled (a collaboration between Heidi Middleton, Sarah-Jane Clarke and renowned stylist Vanessa Traina) with its polished blazers, colour-blocked ensembles and embellished mini-dresses. The tribal suggestions of the past were but a distant drumbeat, and the collection all the better for it.
The buzz circling Dion Lee has well and truly moved offshore, as demonstrated on Wednesday when he revealed his first New York ready-to-wear show at an art and technology centre in Chelsea. Having already showed at London fashion week, New York was next on the agenda, as his ambitious global strategy continues its rollout.
The plaudits were vindicated following a collection that was progressive and technically astute. It’s on the runway that the complexities of Lee’s designs are best appreciated with the meticulous attention to form, the bold risks in garment construction and the innovative use of textiles.
The downside to Australia’s strong representation in New York are the potential concerns regarding the credibility and viability of Australia’s own fashion platform, many Australian designers more focused on showing internationally than at home. For the record, only one of the four designers mentioned above showed on-schedule at this year’s Australian fashion week in April. Whether Australia’s designers could master a northern hemisphere winter is another story.
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