Next-gen designers steal the catwalk at Australian Fashion Week

A crowd of enthusiastic onlookers came to see the future of Australian fashion on Tuesday evening. An audience of editors, stylists and influencers at the New South Wales Tafe’s Fashion Design Studio (FDS) catwalk show – a regular event during Australian Fashion Week – was joined by parents, friends and some of the school’s most notable alumni, including Akira Isogawa, Bianca Spender and Nicky Zimmermann.

The event, called “the Innovators”, has been held during Australian Fashion Week since 1998 and has highlighted some of Australia’s most successful designers. On this occasion, four graduates from the class of 2023 – Samara Darling, Sara Marta, Renee Henderson and Isabella Hoyle Davies – each presented twelve looks: a mix of voluminous sleeves, breathtaking sheer dresses, bubble skirts, tassels, embellished denim and layers upon layers. of tulle.


To mark the show’s 25th anniversary, the graduate collections were followed by a parade of garments designed by prominent FDS alumni, including Nicky Zimmerman, Christopher Esber, Dion Lee, Romance Was Born and Karla Spetic, as well as looks from Isogawa and Spender . In a challenging climate for independent designers, it was a welcome reminder of the depth and breadth of homegrown talent.

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Australian Fashion Week director Natalie

Nathan McGuire, the founder of Mob in Fashion, agrees: “It’s nice to see that fresh perspective. Each of the students [have] an individual style; the potential there is great.”

Before the show, we spoke to the four graduates about their designs and plans for the future.

Samara Darling, Sydney

Label: Who are you

Samara Darling created her collection while composing music. The Sydney-based graduate is an avid singer and during the design process she collaborated with other musicians on a song. “Every time music was added to the song, design decisions were made in terms of shape and textures,” she says.

On Tuesday evening, three musicians performed the song live as Darling sent her white, black, gray and pastel clothes down the catwalk. The looks were sculptural yet soft: wide-leg trousers in stiff cotton jackhammer with exaggerated cargo pockets paired with a high-neck blouse with wide sleeves made from sheer organza.

Darling’s creative output is also environmentally conscious. She uses remnants of furniture fabrics, sample cards and leftovers in addition to a biobased material derived from algae and combined with glycerin. She describes using the material as an experiment: the mixture was poured over pieces of silk and molded into the shape of a bodice.

“I want Who Am U to be part of a culture of exploring and expanding fashion and the connection our clothes have to who we are,” she says. “I hope to see a bit more fun and play in the Australian fashion landscape in the future.”

Sarah Martha, Sydney

Label: Marta Design

“I just love artistry. For me, the beauty of fashion comes from the people who make it,” says Sara Marta of Marta Design. “I grew up watching YouTube videos of the Dior atelier where they show all the makers making the lace appliqué and all the little details. I’m just really inspired by craft.”

This love for detail was evident in the looks Marta sent down the runway, including a sheer, ankle-length pale pink slip dress with beaded mauve leaves and red, swirling vines. And a white organza top with cap sleeves, embroidered with soft green leaves and orange and pink flowers, combined with a shimmering pink floor-length satin skirt.

Marta worked with textile artisans in India on the intricate beadwork and embroidery. She communicated with creators via WhatsApp, sharing illustrations and references that were turned into her final designs. Most of this work was done on polyester tulle that could be stretched around the body because of its sheer, form-fitting designs.

During her studies, Marta worked in retail for women’s clothing label Zimmermann (whose company sold for A$1.5 billion last year) and often looked to the brand for inspiration. Now that she has graduated, Marta plans to move to London to broaden her experience.

“I don’t see myself leaving Australia forever; I definitely want to come back and build my own brand here,” she says. “But I want to work somewhere where there are more resources and innovations.”

Isabella Hoyle Davies, Sydney/Orange

Label: Bella Davies

“To start a brand, I feel like you have to find a community of people who really love and enjoy your clothes,” says Isabella Hoyle Davies of the Bella Davies label. The graduate’s collection, titled Keep Space, is inspired by the idea of ​​personal space and maintaining distance between the wearer and their environment. “Clothes are used as armor, but they don’t appear as armor,” she says. “My collection is very feminine, so I use shapes and silhouettes.”

Her look included a pink and red long-sleeved top and a matching velvet miniskirt, pleated so tightly that it sat snugly away from the body. The top sleeves featured an exaggerated cuff that covered the model’s hand, although this was offset by a ruffle that ran along the collarbones.

Davies likes to use richly textured fabrics, including silk organza, chiffon, leather, cotton, linen and leftover furniture fabrics. Craft practices such as painting on fabric, beading and hand-dyeing make each piece feel handmade.

One of the most time-consuming pieces from the collection was a light blue polyester dress that was draped in pleats over a mannequin and then set into shape with a heat gun to melt and harden the synthetic material. Worn on the catwalk with a matching sheer veil, the effect of heat-set draping gave the dress a wet look, while a flowing asymmetrical skirt created a feminine line through the waist.

Renée Henderson, Wollongong

Label: Lychee Alkira

“My great-grandmother was a seamstress, so it’s in my blood,” says Wiradjuri woman Renee Henderson of Lychee Alkira.

Indigenous knowledge and stories told the designs in her graduate collection. She collaborated with Bayley Mifsud, a Peek Whurrong artist from the Maar nation, to create a red and white print, made of circles and lines, which was featured on high-waisted flared trousers and a matching knee-length jacket. “She painted directly onto canvas and sent it back to me in Sydney, and I was able to convert her design into a screen print,” says Henderson.

In addition to screen printing, Henderson works with eco dyes from eucalyptus, geranium and rose petals. The dye job was on display in a mottled green and red organza used in the first looks she sent down the runway: a flowy maxi dress with diagonal, ruched details; and a flirty miniskirt and top, pleated with a red ribbon to shape the torso and hips. Both outfits had a commercial ease that normally eludes graduate shows.

Henderson is building an online store where some pieces from her graduate collection will be available. And she hopes to continue working with Aboriginal designers and creatives. “Even now we have a lot of Aboriginal models on the show too, which is really great,” she says. “That’s what I see in the future of Australian fashion.”

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