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To the keening tune of A-ha’s “Summer Moved On,” Albus Lumen’s Marina Afonina returned to the runway for the first time in four years. With melancholic lyrics like “In the morning light/ I found out / Seasons can’t last,” soundtracking the opening look of a jet-black bikini under a sweeping duster coat, it could have set something of a mournful tone; but Afonina set things straight backstage: it was about facing a turning point and, as she admitted candidly, quite a personal one. “Fashion’s really hard work, you know? And then you feel sometimes, ‘do you want to give up?’ This time I wanted to go all out, or stop doing it.”

The pandemic interrupted her trajectory: she was building her unisex offering and debuting bridal three years ago, but things got tough. Happily, though, when the stakes are so personal, the results can be potent, and Afonina, who chose the latin phrase for ‘white light’ as her label name, is a highly-driven optimist.

In her first full embrace of eveningwear and the return of bridal she did go all out: double-layer sheer silk slips, a plunge-neck lean-line maxi with trailing neck tie, and a drop-waist tiered dress in varying shades of Afonina’s signature neutrals—bone, seashell and driftwood—had black-tie, and wedding-day, appeal. A quilted silk robe coat and long-sleeve dress in shortbread, tenderly draped around the hips, made sense of Afonina surprise-namechecking of Grace Kelly, and “old glamour,” given she’s hitherto shunned embellishment for the raw and natural.

The teardrop pearls like raindrops spangling a cowl-neck dress jibed with her major touchpoint: a moody, misty day in summer. “It’s like she’s walking the coastline, and there’s pieces of sand stuck to her,” she said of linen coats festooned with pebble-shaped beads and buttons like precious flotsam and jetsam. Writing about coastal-ease is near inevitable at Australian fashion week but, Afonina was one who led the charge in the country’s brand of minimalist ocean-adjacent effortlessness. Here, she reprised crochet and knits in instantly-desirable dresses, pareos, and suiting with a grown-up slant. Clever moments like a slubbed collarless jacket, a low-key Australian version of tweed, will see her a step ahead again.

Afonina laid out three words for this collection—nostalgia, faith, and future—the first was in being true to her core. The faith is pouring it all into a runway return, and the future: she’s banking on the poignancy and polish to launch an elevated rework of her label. It was a collection worthy of going all-in for.