Friday, May 4, 2007

Shake your Boodie: The Australian swimwear show (mercifully) reaches new heights

I'm sitting on a private ferry en route to the Hallican Boodie show.

We are apparently en route to a private, harbourside residence in Woolwich and this ferry has been deemed the most efficient means of transporting us there. I'm having a bit of a deja vu moment because the last time I was on a fashion week boat, the Azimut yacht this time last year, Sydney restaurateur Dave Evans was doing the catering and was rudely bailed up by my good self on the Elle Macpherson subject in one of the cabins. Well Evans just strode past me en route to the rear deck. There is no catering on this boat I hasten to add, which is a damned shame as most of us have not eaten in hours. As the vessel approaches its destination, a voice over the PA system announces that return ferries will leave at 10.45pm and 11.45pm. Given that it is now 10.16pm, I'd say the chances of us getting out of this before midnight are remote.

We get out of the boat and are ushered along a narrow jetty towards some stairs which lead to the venue. Just to clarify, rather a lot of stairs, which wind up the escarpment to what appears in the distance to be a multi-level luxury mansion. We proceed to climb up the stairs, and up, and up, and our little obstacle course then takes us past a kidney-shaped pool, over some stepping stones and through quite a lot of greenery, including one area in which sprinklers are working for some absurd reason. I thank my lucky stars that I have on a pair of wedge heel Mary Janes and not the patent purple pumps with nail-thin green stiletto heels that I was wearing yesterday although that said, as I climbed the last set of stairs before the pool, I did hear a seam rip in my pencil skirt.

"How unglamorous" sniffs one woman as she scrambles past the sprinklers.

We are now on some open lawn area behind the house, possibly a tennis court. It's quite a large runway setup, complete with scaffolding towers for the lights, a raised runway and surrounding murals painted with images of Tikis and lush, tropical greenery. Some giant wooden Tikis are also scattered around the area and there is a Chinese lantern-decorated bar. It's a kind of Survivor-meets-Gilligan's Island look and it is in fact quite impressive. Some serious money has been spent on this launch (I later hear in the vicinity of 100K).

"It's like a Tiki party" volunteers Kiwi journo Carolyn Enting, before some 70s disco music starts up and she feels the need to qualify her previous statement.

"Actually it's like a Tiki party crossed with Miami Vice" she says.

I cross my fingers that this means there is a possibility Colin Farrell could emerge from behind one of the giant Tikis at any moment. For now, we have to make do with Miro - Simon Lock's glamorous Eastern block replacement for (the much-missed) seat Nazi John Flower who doubles as a personal trainer. Many at Fashion Week have grown accustomed to Miro's very hands-on approach to seating as he guides you to your allocated pew.

Miro gets up onto the stage in front of a band setup and takes the microphone.

"Could we please have the international buyers and media in the front two rows, thanks" he says, as some soft music starts up behind him.

Miro moves off the stage and after a short time, some new music starts - a cover of Que Sera Sera. A model emerges in a dramatically-cut black maillot and wearing some showgirl feathers on her head. She walks around deliberately - we assume - dazed and confused, as if she's not sure exactly what she's supposed to be doing up there - or has a case of early onset Alzheimers. Then other similarly-garbed models emerge doing precisely the same thing. It's always interesting when designers, from Sydney to Milan, ask their models to not just walk in fashion shows, but act. It's usually not a good look.

But enough of the runway 'theatre', as for the swimwear it's pure Hallican Boodie sass. Signature cutout maillots and intricately-cut bikinis, some of the best in a zig-zag or animal print, with one knockout metallic snakeskin motif. There is also some great resortwear to go with - floor-length patio dresses and coverups. All up, and given the minor inconvenience of having to be ferried across the other side of the harbour, it's a pretty spectacular swimwear presentation. The show wraps, a Chinese kitchen opens up in one corner and everyone dives into it, desperate for sustenance. After milling around for a short while a number of us decide it's probably a good idea to head back down the obstacle course to head to the pier. As luck - or sense - had it, a luxury cruiser is standing by to ferry the ten of us who make it down first back to the CBD, ahead of the scheduled ferries. I walked in the door of my apartment at midnight.

It's been a day, nay a week, of spectacular swimwear productions. After last year's abomination of a group swimwear show at this event, it's an exciting development. Swimwear is a big focus of these spring/summer shows in Sydney and three brands really stepped up to the plate this season with their productions: Hallican Boodie, Anna & Boy and of course Azzollini, with its impressive Don Cameron video clip. Zimmermann is always a great show of course - but Zimmermann is most definitely fashion + swimwear, as opposed to standalone swimwear, which is a challenge to put up there by itself for an entire, dedicated runway show.

Earlier in the evening Anna & Boy dazzled with a Milan-worthy production: LED panel at the runway entrance, mirrored runway, a giant "A&B" logo and flashing neon tube lights installed around the parameters of the tent. Great to see this fledgling brand looking so confident in the space of just one year. Also good to see resortwear added to the range - the pintucked shirt-dresses and logo singlet dress looked good and provided a great counterpoint to the charming retro florals and tartans of Anna & Boy's bikinis and one-pieces, which are gradually finding their feet not just on the editorial front (it helps to have connections at Vogue), but at the international retail level as well.

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Goot, the crap and the ugly: Fashion Week's polemics hit home

Sitting waiting for the Josh Goot show to start in the Redfern Carriageworks, a cavernous, industrial space on the fringe of the CBD that was once home to Sydney's locomotive workshops.

It has a very similar vibe to The Tunnel, the abandoned railway station down on New York's 11th Avenue where Goot staged his February show. It's a big space with two rows of seating arranged around three walls and at least 100 people are standing at the back of the seats. Dita Von Teese is here, ditto Jennifer Hawkins and on the other side of the room, my great friends from Ksubi, George Gorrow and Dan Single, with their US model mate Erin Wasson.

We could be anywhere in the world but in fact we are here in Sydney to see Goot's fourth runway presentation in twelve months. I know Goot is completely buggered - he sounded like it when I spoke to him last week about the Target project and this fatigue is reflected in every interview he's done in the leadup. There is considerable risk of course that that fatigue could translate into the clothes on offer today.

As the first outfit comes out - a white draped viscose skirt and top - I breathe in sharply in and think, 'Oops'. It's not a strong opening statement. But then the second emerges, a pair of fluid track pants and singlet in a superfine grey marle and then comes a flash of acid yellow in a microdress with batwing sleeves and the show is off and rocking.

Inspired by 'future Roman sport' the collection features a series of fine, chainmail-look polyamide/acrylic leggings and singlets, in both silver and gold, the singlets boasting Goot's signature racerbacks. There are also some very chic, minimalist cocktail dresses in sleek, fluid stretch acrylics, one in bright fuschia, another in vibrant ultraviolet, both with matching capes - picking up from Goot's Gotham girl look just shown for the northern winter.

The colour-blocked, psychedelic leggings with in-built 'swirl' seamwork - for both men and women - were sensational, even if the articulated pattern looked alarmingly, for a fleeting moment, like the Target logo (it wasn't). Some of the body-hugging dresses with clever, intricate, contoured seamwork - an extension of an idea that Goot showed in New York in September - looked awkward to my eye. And when Goot is no longer suffering from sleep deprivation, I'm sure he'll look at those old lady shirts towards the end of the show - and kick himself for not yanking them. But the American retailers that I spoke to loved everything. Henri Bendel will order yet more Goot and, having kept an eye on Josh Goot for two years to see how it developed, American Rag said they hoped to now pick the brand up.

Goot knows only too well that you can't spread yourself too thin - or risk losing focus.

"I don't want to have to do four collections a year, I want to do two a year and show two a year" said Goot afterwards. "I got home on the 15th of March, what is it now, six weeks? That's craziness, to put it together in six weeks".

Yet more future sport at Alice McCall, another Australian who is currently showing on the international runways (three consecutive seasons in London). Some fresh florals aside, there were less of McCall's signature prints in this collection, a move away from her hippie signature vibe and towards fashion's current urban sport moment, a trajectory that was perhaps not always entirely successful.

McCall has a knack for picking a hot accessory however I'm not convinced that her hologram corset belt will be one of them. Sporty grey marle appeared in babydoll and shift dresses, with flashes of this week's ultra popular acid lime green. There were plenty of McCall's popular - in fact, cult-ish - dresses to keep her customers happy, some of the prettiest in pinstriped cotton with acid lime inset crochet panels. The stripe story was cute - longline tops, cardigans and one intriguing hooded singlet dress with cutout panels - as were the denim overalls.

It's a good feeling to front up to two consecutive standout AFW shows from local brands that got their starts in Sydney just three years ago but which are now both becoming international runway regulars. Fashion Week's focus has changed since it first launched in May 1996 and there are plenty of designers who showed then who have zero chance of cracking the OS market.

And look, while I thoroughly appreciate the need to have a series of entry-level AFW parades, for new designers to enter at a low cost and then, or so the idea goes, rise up through the parade ranks towards solo status, perhaps it is now time for a rethink about what these group shows offer AFW. Akira Isogawa and more recently Gail Sorronda are both Ready-to-Wear refugees - but both Goot and McCall catapulted straight onto AFW's solo runways at the get go.

While it's possible to unearth talent in group shows, they nevertheless continue to be Fashion Week's energy vampires - sucking the buzz out of the schedule with their all-too-frequent blandness and 'equal opportunity' ambiance. There is nothing 'equal' about the fashion business - if you don't have a point of difference, or a strategy, you're out of business. The poor brands - and there are a lot of them - unfortunately drag down the stronger ones. I gather this may be one of the reasons why there were so many solo shows from newcomers this year. Gail Sorronda could not have afforded to risk her image by taking part in another RTW show - and she shone last night on her own. Ditto Arabella Ramsay, with a pert, pretty collection of cool girl chic that proved one of my personal highlights of the week. Jessie Hill's was another extremely confident solo debut this season.

The 'blah' factor of the RTW shows is one reason why organisers have so much trouble getting high profile delegates to attend them - which must prove embarrassing, when RTW show participants pay to be part of the schedule and expect some kind of turnup. Apparently New Zealand's Annah Stretton was mortified that AFW organisers refused to accord her a solo show today. But having witnessed Stretton's (very) shabby chic efforts in machine-washable, distressed tulle first-hand at New Zealand Fashion Week, not to mention her styling prowess that has embraced such accessories as a wild boar's head and dead parrots, that can presumably only be a good thing.

The 'blah' factor was also very much in evidence at the One Fell Swoop show today. One Fell Swoop may well have won the Perth chapter of one of the recent Mercedes Startup competition, but all it could come up with for its big runway photo op today was a series of badly-made, black georgette dresses with taffeta cummerbunds. That's not fashion - it's market stall merchandise.

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Table manners: Gail Sorronda's pretty maids all in a row

I am sitting in the Ocean Room restaurant at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, waiting for the Gail Sorronda show to start. This is the 10th show of the day and some amazing kid with long blonde emo hair whose voice hasn't broken is on a podium singing his heart out.

Given that it is currently 9.30pm and there is still no sign of the show, it's just as well that they have started handing around platters of Thai fish cakes or else I might be obliged to commence nibbling on my neoprene Mac cover sleeve. It's only because designer Gail Reid is so good that people are sticking around for so long. I later learnt that the name of the singer is Tom Jordan and that he is just 13. At first I seriously thought he was a girl. He's pretty damned good.

The audience is seated at a series of tables down either side of a wide "runway" space that leads from the street flank of the restaurant to the Harbour exit out back. The models emerge one by one and step up onto a line of small, white, translucent pedestals/stools directly in front of the tables. The pedestals light up from within as the models stand on them - with a spotlight positioned directly over each pedestal. With the rest of the room in darkness, it's pretty hard to see the clothes in any enormous detail, but it is a cute concept nonetheless.

The entire collection is in Reid's signature magpie palette of black and white: a series of terribly pretty, and mostly terribly short, puff-skirted, puff-sleeved cocktail dresses and ensembles in silk taffeta and sheer silk georgette, several versions of which boast either crisp man-style white shirts with exaggerated collars, or little aprons and bibs with plisse edges. There's a definite Fifi the French maid look to a number of these outfits. There are also some longer, more sharply-tailored dresses and one solitary pair of high-waisted, full-legged black trousers topped with a white cotton smock blouse.

In what has emerged as a signature hair look for this Sydney season - taking its cues from recent European shows such as Lanvin - all the models have their hair pulled severely upwards into tight chignons at the top of the head. They're also wearing quirky little head adornments such as silver cat ears and headbands festooned with crystals.

A number of the models appear to be Asian/Eurasian and this is somewhat unusual for Sydney. In spite of the number of Asians who actually reside in this country, their numbers do not appear to be well represented on this city's runways. Twenty five-year-old Reid, originally from Brisbane, is both Eurasian and a professional model herself. Suffice it to say that tonight's presentation looks a little like an army of glamorous Gail Reid clones.

This is Reid's solo runway debut at AFW and it has been interesting to follow her rapid development. On a tip from retailer Belinda Seper, I recall first speaking to her backstage at the 2005 event after Reid appeared in one of the group "New Generation" parades following her Queensland finals win of the 2004 Mercedes-Benz Startup new talent competition. This time last year, Reid outshone every other designer in her group Ready-to-Wear show - with her brand name stretched across the back of the runway proscenium as if she owned the room.

In September I saw her at the London Fashion Week trade fair, with a book full of clippings and a rack full of clothes. Two months later I saw her at the Melbourne Cup, taking out a place in the pro-designer category of the Fashions on the Field competition.

One international retailer present tonight said the collection wasn't her cup of tea, but no matter - Reid already has 20 stockists in Australia, New Zealand, the US, UK, London, Greece, Denmark and Hong Kong. The Melbourne fashion chain, Cactus Jam, looks to be the next to join her burgeoning Australian stockists list.

"We've been following it for a few seasons and for us it's all about dropping a label into the store at the right time and this season would be the right time for us," said the owner of Cactus Jam, Fiona Petty. "I like the fact that it's clever, it's interesting and it's somebody who's actually designing clothes, as opposed to just translating what's happening everywhere else in the world."

After the show I walked to the back of the restaurant to congratulate Reid, and am directed to a small photoshoot that is taking place on the edge of the wharf.

Reid sits on a bollard, flanked by two models, with the sails of the Opera House lit dramatically in the distance behind the black-and-white tableau.

It's a full moon fashion moment all right.

We have a quick chat before I leave her to the photographers:

The collection was called Bird of Prey?
Gail Reid: I liked the idea of asking the question, who was the bird and who was the prey?

The models were the birds?
Well - were they? They could have been. It's all about the male and female gaze, and the spectator's versus the model's gaze.

Is it difficult juggling modelling and designing?
Well no because I do more designing than modelling.

I couldn't help thinking that all the models looked a lot like you.
Yes well it's kind of Mini Me. It's very introverted and very ...

It is very narcissistic! I'm happy to admit that. But you know what, it's my little empire and I can do whatever I want.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Frock of ages: fashion's (apparently) never-ending dress code

Frocks rule. Had he been as passionate a fashion writer as he was a conservationist - and exhibitionist - Steve Irwin might have said that.

As evidenced by pretty much every collection on Sydney's runways this week, the dress continues to be one of, if not the, biggest contemporary fashion story. And while to the ears of the uninitiated, it might sound absurd to say that dresses are currently a major fashion statement - as if they ever went away as a sartorial option for women - fact is, their popularity has waxed and waned over the decades. For the past couple of years however, the dress has been creeping back into collections with a vengeance.

Most major retailers with whom I have spoken over the past three seasons have all echoed the same sentiment - that the dress continues to power ahead on their sales floors. There are dress-specialist labels, dress-dedicated departments now in some department stores and even, it seems, some dress-specialist stores.

Take the Austique boutique over in London. Austique is operated by expat Australian Lindy Lopes and specialises in Australian labels - with 100% of what retailers refer to as "sellthrough" on dress-specialist label Alice McCall, reports Lopes, which means that essentially all the McCall stock that Lopes buys basically walks out the door. Lopes told me that, apart from a few jeans, Austique has only been stocking dresses for the past two years.

I was sitting next to Lopes at last night's Stephanie Conley show. Extremely well-connected (engaged to Brit/Australian fashion photographer Ben Watts, Conley is the soon-to-be sister-in-law of Australian actor Naomi Watts) Conley also happens to do a great dress, a pretty daffodil yellow example of which was famously pictured on Lauren Bush at the US Open a year or so ago. Conley's fresh-as-a-daisy solo AFW runway debut was jam-packed with some of the prettiest dresses on offer so far this week: from sweet floral cotton sundresses to some knockout cocktail dresses in buttercup yellow silk cinched with wide, clear PVC belts.

Almost every collection this week has been groaning with dresses. From the ubiquitous, trapeze-line, waistless shift and sack dresses - some of them perilously short - to pert sundresses, pinafore dresses, a few resilient bubble dresses from last season, and also the far newer, masculine-nosed shirt-dress or shirtwaister, which has been omnipresent. A good case in point, Ginger & Smart's pintucked white tuxedo shirtdress this morning.

Tina Kalivas' spectacular, colour-blocked show yesterday, while at times a little reminiscent of London's Marios Schwab, featured some terrific dresses as well - notably one spectacular black ballerina dress with intricate cutout bodice. This afternoon Fleur Wood showed an ultra feminine collection of dresses, some of the prettiest festooned with delicate lace, with layers of nude-coloured tulle cascading from Empire bustlines.

"Dresses are rocketing" Wood told me straight after the show. "[In] wholesale orders and retail sales... our dresses sold an extra I think 400percent on the year before, dresses to skirts, last summer to this summer. Phenomenal".

"It's the biggest category right now" said Ruthie Miller, womenswear buyer for the three-unit Californian fashion chain American Rag which already carries 17 Australasian brands and by this afternoon was looking to add at least two more - Anna Thomas and Zambesi, both of which collections showed, you guessed it, great dresses.

Added Miller, "I saw the change for myself, as a buyer watching trends.... [that] women didn't realise how easy it was to put on a dress. They were always putting on jeans with a blouse and top, belts and this and that. But it was just so easy to get up in the morning and just put on that dress and look fabulous and not have to think about what shoes go with which shirt".

Noted Mark Werts, American Rag founder who travels to Australia twice a year with Miller, "For us it started in vintage clothing about three or four years ago, when every girl was wearing jeans. The more fashion-forward girls were wearing dresses right in the middle of the jeans boom".

Another expat Australian who is carving out an Australasian-nosed fashion retail niche is Elizabeth Charles, who operates one eponymous boutique in New York and a week ago opened her second in San Francisco.

"The dress is by far my biggest selling item - it's about 90percent of my inventory" Charles told Fashion Season. "Once the dress bubble ever bursts, I hope I'm ready. If it swings around to pants, I think you don't want to be stuck with a heap of frocks".

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A design career punctuated by photo ops: Where to now for Ksubi?

I've just returned from the Ksubi press conference. As per usual it was one great big photo op for Ksubi co-founders Dan Single and George Gorrow: a meet-and-greet with their supposed bestie, international runway walker Erin Wasson.

As already reported, Wasson was recently sent a text message by the Ksubi lads to ask if she'd like to come on down to grace their show tomorrow. She jumped at the opportunity, Wasson told today's mini media scrum.

"So are you doing it for free?" asked someone from the media pack.

"Yeah" said Wasson, a little awkwardly.

For the record, Wasson happens to be an IMG model, and according to an IMG spokesperson, she is contracted and is being paid. As was Lily Cole, last year's international runway ringin at the event. IMG of course owns Australian Fashion Week and it has an interest in promoting its own talent. That's not to say that Wasson doesn't like and wear Ksubi's jeans or that she doesn't know and like Single and Gorrow. But it's worth pointing out this connection, just to keep some perspective.

After the "conference", during which not a great deal was said other than organiser Simon Lock recounting some of Ksubi's antics at AFW's past and some of their upcoming projects (a store in Tokyo, a book of photographs due out tomorrow) - and certainly nothing about yesterday's announcement of the sale of a chunk of Ksubi equity to Quiksilver Europe founder Harry Hodge - Gorrow, Single and Wasson squeezed in together for pics.

This is what Ksubi revels in: photo ops, back pats and prat fall pranks. Their fashion career, since they first launched themselves into publicity orbit in 2001, by sending 169 rats down the AFW runway, has been punctuated by one photo op after another. For the most part I do take my hat off to them: for the ability to keep on pulling publicity rabbits out of hats. I'm all for pushing the corners of the envelope and the label formerly known as Tsubi has certainly gone there many times.

From the models overboard show of 2003 (even Simon Lock at the time admitted he was nervous about the public liability issues of models coming to grief in Sydney Harbour after diving off the Tsubi boat) to the "fabulous nobodies" show of May 2005, you usually never know just what you're in for with a Tsubi show. Some ideas have been clever. Some have been offensive - a case in point, the "porno" calendar launch, for which models (including Michelle Leslie) posed in some very unflattering poses alongside cars and motorbikes. One line of accompanying 'graffiti' was so offensive that I wrote it down for posterity: "It is the code of the semen to f**** a golden prostitute".

And one idea apparently wasn't theirs at all: the famous "two minute" show of November 2004 - when, after making the audience wait for over an hour, models were sent out on a victory lap of the runway, clapping, as if it was the end of the show. London-based Swedish designer Ann-Sofie Back has, I am assured, been doing this very stunt since she first launched.

Ksubi has lapped up all the attention and publicity - and rucked up a A$20million sales turnover in the process, the greatest slice of which has of course come from their killer jeans. Perhaps it's no surprise to learn that they don't like bad publicity. I mean who does in fashion? This business runs on PR and publicists and designers love fashion writers who don't ask the hard questions best. Sydney is not the only town where fashion journos get banned and verbally attacked - Cathy Horyn of The New York Times is currently under a ban from several separate design houses, following negative reviews, including Dolce e Gabbana and Carolina Herrera. Ksubi is the only show this week that I haven't been invited to and there was the incident in New York last September where loudmouth New York publicist Kelly Cutrone - Ksubi's US PR rep - banned me from all her clients' shows forthwith.

I was interested to finally see the dark side of Dan Single on Saturday night at the Willow presentation. I'd heard a lot about it. Totally unprovoked - except save for a series of stories that I have written about the Tsubi/Tsubo trademark dispute which obliged Tsubi to change its name to Ksubi, and the Cutrone incident - Single approached me while I was talking to several other people and made a couple of nasty comments in a loud voice.

When I later attempted to clear the air, by asking just what Single's problem was, he told me - once again in full earshot of a number of people - that after I had made enquiries to some of Ksubi's suppliers approximately 18 months ago, some of the companies had been spooked and it wound up costing Ksubi a great deal of money. He didn't elaborate any further.

At the end of the Tsubi trademark story that I wrote this time last year, I alluded to a major cash crunch that Tsubi appeared to be having in late 2005. That's certainly when I first got wind of it - due solely to the fact that the ragtrade, from Sydney to Auckland, was abuzz with talk about the company.

Who knows what's really going on in Ksubi's world? Many fashion companies experience cashflow problems - and of course some unfortunately also go under. But while Single and Gorrow may have laughed off suggestions from branding specialists this time last year that the trademark changeover cost could potentially wind up in the seven figures, it's probably a safe bet to say that irrespective of the cost, it's an additional expense that they probably did not need at the time.

A Tsubo director told me that his company had been pursuing Tsubi for several years but claimed that Single and Gorrow just kept fobbing off the calls and emails. In the end, Single and Gorrow didn't have much choice - the case almost went to court, which could have cost the duo more money still. Had they nipped the matter in the bud, at a time when most people had never heard of Tsubi, presumably the entire exercise would not have been quite so expensive.

Good luck to Single and Gorrow. It will be interesting to see how this new partnership pans out and just where the Ksubi brand is heading. Hopefully it's onwards and upwards. I don't enjoy having to investigate/report that fashion companies may be experiencing financial problems however the ragtrade is a tough industry and at the end of the day, it's my job.

One thing's for sure however. As a number of fashion creatives have discovered after selling brand equity to investors - there's no such thing as a free lunch.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Veni Vidi Varga: Brunsdon's pinup girls and Vogue's advertiser-friendly TV

Sitting here waiting for the Jayson Brunsdon show to start. It's the same upstairs "OPT" venue as the Lisa Ho, Anna Thomas and Melanie Cutfield shows yesterday - the one that looks a lot like The Salon tent at Bryant Park in New York. Given that that's precisely the tent in which Brunsdon showed in New York in February, this time it really, really feels like deja vu.

Strangely enough however, given the big fish in a small pond factor, I'd say Brunsdon's New York show was fuller than this. There are a few people standing around here due to the seats filling up - but in February, they were standing shoulder-to-shoulder in lines around the walls.

The big difference between the two shows is that this one is happening in the throes of a very warm Sydney autumn, while the other was staged during a bitterly cold New York winter - and gripped by a dreadful gastric flu, I recall sitting through Brunsdon's show wishing that they had not given me a front row seat, because frankly I felt like I was going to have to run out the door at any moment.

I could just envisage The Daily's headline the following day:"Chunder from Downunder!" or, perish the thought, the entry on Kelly Cutrone's blog. So far noone has been able to answer the following question: has anyone, in the history of fashion presentations, ever thrown up on a runway during a show? On that frigid New York evening, I prayed that the first recorded sighting was not going to be me.

Anyhow, to my left, about three seats up, is Dita Von Teese. Two seats to my right, expat Australian model - and newly-minted Victoria's Secret "Angel" - Miranda Kerr. Photographers on the other side of the runway keep training their lenses on both. Sandwiched in between them, as I am, it's a somewhat disconcerting feeling. This is what celebs live for of course - the photo op. Only to later bitterly complain when they can't switch that media interest off at inconvenient times.

As for the collection, I have to hand it to Brunsdon - as I do also to Josh Goot, Alice McCall and anyone else who is currently juggling runway commitments in two hemispheres. Brunsdon's first show in New York was just three months ago. And yet here he is again with a complete - but very tightly-edited - resort range.

No, Brunsdon is not reinventing the design wheel but he has managed in a very short space of time (three years) to carve a smart niche for himself in the Australian womens classic eveningwear category. Yes his pencil-thin, beaded, tailored cocktail dresses and boleros with built-in corsets owe as much to Roland Mouret as they do to his stated collection inspiration - the 40s Varga Girl - but there were a couple of knockout dresses, both of them in burnt orange silk. Perhaps I have been bamboozled by Brunsdon's New York buzz factor, but I can't help seeing this collection snapped up by a few Manhattan princesses.

Walking backstage afterwards I do a double-take when I spot a woman with dead straight, platinum-blonde hair, wearing a pink smock dress, interviewing Brunsdon in front of a television camera. I can't help thinking that the woman looks alarmingly like David Jones' group general manager for apparel, footwear, accessories and cosmetics, Colette Garnsey.

The woman turns towards me and voila, it is indeed Garnsey - doing a few quick backstage ivs, I am informed by a David Jones spokeswoman, for a video story for Vogue Australia's online division, Apparently Garnsey's debut iv was at last night's Alex Perry show.

Presumably, Garnsey won't be doing any interviews with non-DJs designers. But the question remains, should she be doing any interviews at all? I wonder to myself whether the end piece will be clearly advertised as a David Jones advertisement, whether it will masquerade as some sort of daft industry type-on-industry type interview - or whether perhaps there is any delineation between anything these days at Vogue. It should be noted that the magazine found itself on Media Watch on two occasions recently.

"So do we [the media] get our turn to play buyers now?" I joke, in Garnsey's direction.

"No!" snaps Garnsey.

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That's not a miniskirt, THIS is a miniskirt: Alex Perry courts danger and some Central Coast comparisons

What an utter hoot the Alex Perry show was last night. After such a flat morning, with some momentum starting to build after a couple of strong shows - notably Anna Thomas and the very confident debut of Melanie Cutfield - in walking across to Perry's Cargo Hall venue it really did feel like a big, buzzy show.

A long queue of people stood waiting in line to get in, a mini red carpet 'arrivals' section had been cordoned off to one side in order to capture the bevy of Australian celebrities who had turned up for the show. You name them, they were there: Tara Moss, Michelle Leslie, Sophie Faulkiner, Jodhi Meares, I even spotted Ros and Gretel Packer in the front row. They joined the usual horde of Perry's big-haired clients and fans - every last one of the latter, as per usual, guilty-as-sin of major Crimes Against Bronzer.

Inside there was a feeling of minor pandemonium - which was only exacerbated for me by the shrieks of laughter from New York retail ringin, Henri Bendel VP Fashion Director Ann Watson, as she opened up her goodie bag to find a complimentary ironing board cover, courtesy of Perry's sponsor Sunbeam.

"I've never been at a fashion show, where they've given an ironic board cover!" squealed Watson. "I can't wait to take it home and show everybody. In New York City, I don't know anyone who irons their clothes. I think it's because we live in such a service culture - everybody sends out. Next I'm going to get a can of starch to go with it".

The show started, and a series of mostly stick-thin models - three from the tv show, Australia's Next Top Model, on which Perry is of course a judge - charged out to the loud strains of heavily-remixed disco.

There were plenty of Perry's signature floor-length evening dresses and ensembles - the prettiest those with multicoloured skirts over corset tops, cinched by large belts. However the most striking feature of the Swarovski crystal-encrusted collection - many items from which featured satin versions of the moment's fashionable sporty racerback - was the length of the cocktail dresses. Or rather, lack of it. One coral garment in particularly clearly showed the model's buttock cheeks.

"That's a Britney Spears there" noted Watson.

"He definitely had the best models of the day" she added later, just as the models were doing their victory lap at the end of the show. "Why didn't the other designers have these girls?"

Here's Perry's post-show answer - in a quick backstage iv I did with him post-show:

Alex Perry: [stylist] Trevor Stones and I go through this laborious process of casting. It's really important, especially with what I do. If I put girls who are slightly elegant in my show, it gives it a different slant. And this season especially.

So what, you don't want them to be elegant, but brassy?

Well no, but if they're too elegant... They need to be a bit younger, king of racehorse lean, fresher-ooking girls. Because when you put them in something that's so heavily-jewelled, if I put it on somebody who looks a bit more sophisticated, it looks like I'm trying to create 50s Dior and that time is gone so it needs to be like a modern version of that and you do it on beautiful young girls. Casting is really important.

What was the brief you gave them? They were almost like automatons.
Just pummel out there and pummel back. No sauntering and swaying. Get out there as soon as you can and get back as fast as you can.

What was it like working with the ANTM girls?
You know what - they were fantastic. When we did the dress rehearsal, I didn't recognise two of them. I don't know that you would have guessed which ones they were in the show. Everyone would know Alice [Burdeau - the particularly skinny teenager whose weight has been the subject of recent controversy] because she's like a Nicole Kidman-esque kind of girl. But they fitted in seamlessly with the rest of the girls.

It was very short - particularly that coral number.
I took the reference from old 50s swimsuits. You know, those ones that have that panel in the front.

A Terrigal Skirt?
[Laughs] I wanted them to be dangerous. Everybody at some point has done short skirts since the beginning of fashion. And I thought, 'Alright, I'll show you how how to do a short skirt'. I've never touched that territory and I thought, 'I'm going to do it today, I'll jewel it and cut it to almost a dangerous level'.

Do you think you are going to actually sell the shortest versions?
I might have to lengthen them slightly. But those dresses, they could be made in any length and they're still beautiful - gorgeous cocktail dresses. And you know what? Some cheeky little girl is going to wear it like that. So long as she's got the legs. Let's hope it's not a bad leg offender.

Or a Crime Against Bronzer. There were more than a few of those here I have to say.
There could have been. If I had more time, I would have been too. They're tanned. They're healthy tans. They travel a lot. We're here pasty in the middle of winter and they've come back from somewhere. My clients - they can afford to go whenever they want.

Outside the venue, the lack of length of Perry's skirts was a subject of some debate - notably whether The Terrigal Skirt was in fact the appropriate term.

"Yes there's the Terrigal Skirt, which is just south of The Entrance" noted David Jones head buyer David Bush.

He added, "Then there's the Toukley Skirt - where you can actually see The Entrance".

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Many Rivers to cross: Fergie's fashion manifesto for the red carpet neophyte

Dita Von Teese wasn't the only international in town yesterday with nervous management. The publicist of Black Eyed Peas frontwoman Fergie was very closely vetting his client last night, while she was sequestered in a little velvet rope-enclosed section next to the stage where Von Teese was due to perform. After unsuccessfully attempting to sidle up to Fergie, I was obliged to politely ask the publicist could I throw a few fashion questions her way. I was wound up after three, so here they are for what they're worth.

Wearing a black and white Sass & Bide bubble dress, Fergie graciously chatted to Fashion Season about her personal fashion choices and the challenges inherent in navigating the red carpet.

Fingers crossed she pops in to a couple of shows later this week. According to her manager, there's a possibility that Fergie might try to squeeze at least one into her schedule, with Alice McCall a strong contender at this stage.

So what is your personal fashion philosophy?
Fergie: Be aware of what's current and what's coming but don't be afraid to make it your own.

And when you are making your own red carpet choices, is there a particular signature style that you tend to go for?
Well I always wear something that represents me, but if I'm doing something that's maybe a bit prim and proper like a.... [hard to hear with all the background noise]. There's always that one piece that, it's something that resembles you and only you. And that's what I try to do. And also, if it's too perfect I'll try to mess it up.

And what about the scrutiny of the media when it comes to celebrities and the red carpet? The potential for a massive slagoff etc... Do you think a lot of celebrities take that into serious consideration - do they worry about it?
Yeah I do but at the same point, sometimes I'll go out of the house and look at myself and know that it's an easy targeted outfit to say something about. But sometimes the comedians [presumably such television commentators as red carpet harpies Joan and Melissa Rivers] are just looking for a quick one-liner. But it's not the comedians who are setting fashion trends. They're usually the worst-dressed.

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The Dita factor and Kirrily's urban sport moment

Hurtling in a cab en route to the first show of Fashion Week day two - Kirrily Johnston, down once again at Bondi Icebergs. It's another beautiful day for a fashion meet. Many of us won't be quite as fresh-faced this morning as the last however due to the Dita Von Teese performance last night.

It was well past 11pm when the show finally wrapped and for those of us who then had to produce material to go to air, that wasn't the end of it. I was liaising with my producer until the wee hours this morning, checking that DVT's management had given their 'OK' to the footage for our video packages today.

Von Teese's management obliged all media outlets recording the performance to provide not just the performance footage for approval, but in fact the edited, ie ready-to-air stories - stitching everybody up with a signed contract before they could get through the door.

And look I thoroughly appreciate that DVT has an image to protect, and that some might well be keen to take the images of her writhing on a giant bucking bronco of a lipstick out of context, but I did have to laugh when I spotted what appeared to be dozens of mobile phones whipped out by punters the minute DVT hit the stage to record their own take-home versions of proceedings for posterity. Or YouTube, take your pick (on which currently appears a somewhat raunchier version of last night's show). If you can't stop Saddam Hussein's execution leaking onto the internet, what hope has poor Dita Von Teese of protecting her dignity for heaven's sake?

Now in another cab hurtling back to the OPT for the next shows. Once again Icebergs provided a glorious backdrop to Johnston's jolts of spring/summer colour.

In the case of this season's very sportif collection, the jolts were flashes of canary and saffron yellow and notably, a vibrant Pine Lime Splice green. I liked this collection, particularly the saffron yellow knit and grey marle micro singlet dresses with 'tough chic' exposed zipper and grommet embellishments, as well as Johnston's odes to the floor-length patio dress style, a nice contrast to all the uber minis we saw yesterday.

I liked the lime dress series best of all - all looking like they could have been made out of parka nylon, but which in fact were fashioned from various treatments of silk, from featherlight silk cotton to a glossy, viscose twill-look version. They were bright, breezy and effortlessly chic. But I couldn't help noting what I thought were some far too literal references to Alber Elbaz's just-shown AW0708 collection for Lanvin, the leitmotiv of which collection was a series of massive 'power' sleeves on loose shift shapes. Unlike some others working in the Australian market, Johnston has her own quite distinct aesthetic and, staying 'on trend' aside, I think she should follow her instincts a little more closely next time.

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