Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I was honoured to be invited to moderate the industry panel discussions at the “Fashion Flash” trends presentations of Fashion Group International's Australian chapter last week. It was in fact the third time that I have been involved in these panels. And while in seasons past I had only ever attended the Sydney event, this time I did both Sydney and Melbourne. It was a lot of fun – and I made one fascinating discovery.
For anyone not familiar with FGI, it’s a non-profit organisation for fashion/beauty/accessories/apparel professionals which is headquartered in New York and boasts 5000 members worldwide.
It was launched in 1928 and its founding members included Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Edith Head, Claire McCardell and Carmel Snow.
No men? That’s right. FGI was founded as a womens-only organisation – at a time when, as FGI’s current president Margaret Hayes reminded those gathered at the organisation's international conference last November in Sydney, the only jobs that women could get were in the fashion, beauty etc industries.
FGI's first office space was donated in fact by Fairchild Publications founder Louis Fairchild - within his Womens Wear Daily building.
Today FGI's board of directors boasts such fashion/beauty luminaries as Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenberg and Evelyn Lauder and its annual Night of Stars Gala is a big deal in NY.
Oh - and men have since been allowed in.
So as I say, I was honoured to be asked to be involved once again.
The “Fashion Flash” is staged twice a year.
In Australia the event is basically a breakfast (Sydney) or small cocktail (Melbourne) at which FGI’s biannual trends video is shown.
For those who have never seen one before, this trends video is a pretty comprehensive, 40-minute presentation which canvasses the major runway news from approximately 200 shows of the most recent international season.
The videos are narrated by FGI’s longstanding fashion/creative director Marylou Luther and edited in collaboration with a seasonal panel of fashion experts. This season the panel included senior reps from Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and the US magazines Harpers Bazaar and W.
The industry reps later reassemble for a panel discussion following one of the video’s New York showings (I gather they run multiple showings in NY). InStyle fashion director Hal Rubenstein moderated the most recent NY panel discussion in April.
It's a similar scenario here, only that the Australian industry panellists obviously are not involved in the video's editing process.
Although that said, for the Spring/Summer 2008 video which was shown here in November, shots from Australian designer shows in New York and Paris were in fact included - for the first time in the 20-odd years that FGI has been putting the videos together. This was in honour of the fact that FGI's quadrennial international conference was being held that month in Sydney.
In seasons past, I have shared the podium with local names such as Wayne Cooper, Jayson Brunsdon and Aurelio Costarella.
Last week in Sydney, my fellow panellists were Ivan Gomez from the Vicious Threads streetwear label, eveningwear designer Matthew Eager and tailoring specialist Joe Farage.
Beyond the key highlighted trends which include black, purple, jewel colours, the dress, the jacket, winter florals, embellishment, statement jewellery, the stiletto pump, the clutch purse... it was pretty difficult to ignore two overwhelming messages.
The first was Australian models.
There are more Australian models than ever before on international runways and I lost count of the runway shots of local girls. Given the number of shows featured, and the number of models who walked in the FW0809 season shows, there did seem to be an awfully high concentration of Australian faces amongst the images. And multiple images of several models.
Spot the Australians:
Even harder to ignore was the word Recession.
FGI's FW0809 video was peppered with references to the state of the US economy and the word "Recession", together with phrases such as “austerity chic”.
After the presentation I intro'd the panel discussion with a brief chat about Australian designers in the US, the "disaster" of US retail which some Australians are reporting and some of their respective alternative expansion plans. A case in point, Jayson Brunsdon's new Singapore boutique.
The day before the Sydney presentation, coincidentally, WWD had in fact devoted its cover story to "Fashion's First Aid Kit", together with a graphic of a white doctor's bag and nine key survival points that had been gleaned via discussions with 30 key business leaders.
I read the nine points out - and, amusingly, they wound up in a recording of the following day's presentation in Melbourne (see next post).
The panel then chatted about the coming winter trends but more importantly, the business/retail climate and how each business is adapting.
Among many other points, Matthew Eager (^) mentioned the need to be conscious of price points.
Ivan Gomez (^) talked about diversifying into corporate and other licensed apparel.
And in the experience of Joe Farage (^), the tailoring business is somewhat insulated from economic downturns.
A large percentage of Farage's business (which is split 50/50 womens/mens) is work attire. When times are tough, and for obvious reasons, it seems everyone wants to look their best on the job.
The bag on the left below really stood out. I just couldn't put my finger on where I had seen it before....
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