Monday, September 4, 2006

Which Fashion Week?

Well here we are again, another season, another Fashion Week. But which Fashion Week? That's the question. Today in fact marks the kickoff of a rare confluence of four fashion events, three of them taking place in the one city.

Eleven years after Australia's premier fashion showcase emerged in Sydney, Melbourne finally gets to say, for one week at least, and with some justification, that it's the centre of the Australian fashion universe.

This week Melbourne is the stage for Rosemount Australian Fashion Week, the consumer-focussed Motorola Melbourne Spring Fashion Week and the (very) large trade fair, Fashion Exposed.

Yes you heard correctly. For anyone who missed last week's news, the event formerly known as Mercedes Australian Fashion Week has been reborn this season under the banner of a new naming rights sponsor... wait for it... the mid-to-low price, Fosters Group-owned wine brand Rosemount Estate.

The news was something of a shock to some when it first broke. It's hard to say whether that shock was solely due to the habit of calling the event MAFW for so many years or the prospect of having to quaff Yellowglen at same for the next five. The Fosters-owned champagne brand Lanson may be the event's new official champagne, however Yellowglen Non Vintage is definitely getting a look-in.

Others volunteered (and apparently quite sincerely) that they wouldn't have minded the name Fosters Fashion Week. In any event, nothing lasts forever, 11 years is a marathon run for any sponsor and this is a new era for AFW - not to mention Rosemount Estate, for whom AFW is irrefutably a great get. Perhaps some will even get into the military-sounding swing of the new acronym: RAFW.

Only problem, the first RAFW is on a Lilliputian scale. Simon Lock just can't win. Last October, he was bagged for having a light-on schedule for the autumn/winter MAFW showcase and he vowed to reschedule the event this year, as per industry feedback, to an earlier timeslot. So he brought it forward by almost two months and the timing appears to be a disaster, with an even lighter schedule.

The fact that RAFW runs right into the kickoff of the northern spring/summer 2007 show season, may be exacerbating things.

Apart from the intense competition for publicity between the three Melbourne events this week, more and more Australians are heading to New York to show. The more who show, the more publicity the New York event is generating in Australia and although both RAFW and the official New York event, Olympus Fashion Week, are owned by the same company, IMG, the widening spotlight on New York is cannibalising publicity for the event which put those names on the fashion map in the first place.

It's a vicious cycle, RAFW is becoming a victim of its own success and quite possibly needs to restrategise.

I should add that this is a problem peculiar to the far younger, autumn/winter showcase in Melbourne, which was launched as recently as 2002 and which has been renamed this season as "Transseasonal" collections.

Judging by the number of shows this year (head to to see the schedule) it could have been crammed into one-two days max. The spring/summer showcase in Sydney is now 11 years old and has in fact been stretched to five days to accommodate demand. Spring is a far bigger season in Australia and, dare one say, more designers might in fact take part if the smaller event were also to be held in Sydney, where most of the media is based.

Which brings me to this week's fourth fashion event - and second Fashion Week.

New York Fashion Week starts on Friday and there are no less than six Australian labels on its runways. It's a record number - in fact triple the number who showed last season.

For the first time readers will have a ringside seat at the New York action, and indeed all the action of the entire spring/summer 2007 circuit, which continues on to London, Milan and then Paris over the course of the next five weeks.

From the runways to the backstage shenanigans to the parties, we'll be there - and blogging.

Having been so bitterly disappointed with the dud celebs on the MAFW superyacht in April, as some may recall, we do look forward to touching base with the real thing. They trot them out over there like inflatables at a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

So watch this space. Not MySpace.

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