Friday, February 9, 2007

"Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching": JB's High Fives in NYC

That Big Apple is starting to show quite a few bite marks. On Thursday night Sydney's Jayson Brundson became the eighth Australian designer to debut his label on a New York runway. For his first season Brunsdon pulled off an impressive coup: packing Bryant Park's second-largest venue, the 'Salon', with
400 people, dozens of them having to stand at the back due to a lack of seats.

Inspired by the 1920s Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka, it was a confident, if restrained, debut which included some very pretty eveningwear, notably the closing series of bias-cut, silk satin columns festooned with georgette ribbons.

Also of note, Brunsdon's luxurious quilted, metallic-look belted coats in Swarovski crystal-embellished stretch merino wool and a series of smart Little Black Dresses, the best a sinuous draped cocktail dress with long sleeves.

The jewellery was specially commissioned from rising Australian star Jenny Manik Mercian - who recently worked on her second consecutive Victoria's Secret show and in fact collaborated with a second Fall 0708 show in New York, Tommy Hilfiger's.

Not all the collection worked - Brunsdon should have edited out some of the plainer satin cocktail dresses which looked dull. Then again, young New York fashion hotshot Zac Posen, who packed the biggest tent right next door in the time slot immediately preceding Brunsdon, should take the same advice.

The silly 'dinosaur' dress which closed Posen's show - a black silk taffeta cocktail dress with plisse "fin" at the back - was nevertheless greeted with a roar from Posen's clearly easy-to-please audience, including celebrities actress Rachel Bilson and singer Rihanna.

"I feel really elated, I feel really happy - amazing turnout" said Brunsdon afterwards. [High profile New York-based Australian stylist] Brana Wolf came running backstage and said, 'Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching'".

But in a town which is quick to praise you to your face - only to bitch about you behind your back (a case in point, some reactions to Marc Jacobs' Monday night show as reported in Fashion Season) - the only real measure of success here is money in the till.

In his first season with upscale department store Saks Fifth Avenue, Brunsdon's gowns not only made Saks' recent Christmas front window, but hang alongside established, high profile American eveningwear names Vera Wang and Bagdley Mischka. Brunsdon is currently the only Australian brand stocked by the retailer.

"He's our one and only Australian star" said Saks Fifth Avenue associate buyer Twakniqua Morgan. "I loved the flapper inspiration, I loved the sequinned mini and I also loved the wool with the Lurex, the metal treatment over it. He packed the room and to be an unknown Australian designer it's the product that's selling and not the name and that speaks a lot for his work".

Saks' head womenswear buyer night not have been there, but he sent Morgan as his rep. Also in attendance, Neiman Marcus, Henri Bendel and the Jeffrey boutiques, in addition to media outlets such as US Harpers Bazaar, Vogue and

Australian supporters included David Jones' womenswear buyer Damien Burke, RM Williams creative director Jonathan Ward, Toni Maticevski, Ray Costarella, Brunsdon's former bf of seven years Jarrad Clark (who produced the show - and has now confirmed he is definitely going to be working for IMG, based out of Hong Kong), Michael Murphy, recently headhunted from the New York PR department of Ralph Lauren to Victoria's Secret and Jamie Durie.

Durie was fresh from negotiations with a series of US media outlets on future projects (including, as already widely reported, Oprah Winfrey). One just-confirmed gig will be two seasons hosting a 38 year-old gardening program called The Victory Garden, on PBS.

On the so-called 'Australian invasion' of not just Hollywood, but New York's runways and media scene, Durie noted, "We get out there. We kind of come out punching and I think there's a lot to be said for that. I think Australians have always been really aggressive in the foreign marketplace and no matter where you go - and I work in many different countries at the moment - you'll always find an Australian in the background kind of fighting and going for it.

"We're very hardworking, we're down to earth, we're no bullshit, we don't like wankers and we just get on with it".

With most of the industry working at shows all day, news of the death of Anna Nicole Smith had only just started to trickle through by the time of Brunsdon's show.

"I think she may have gotten caught up in it here and there" noted Durie, on the downside of America's obsession with celebrity. "It's very easy to do. You've got to hold on tight to that character".

He added, "I think the secret to celebrity is never call yourself a celebrity".

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