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“It really takes a lot of time and effort to get here. Plus, there’s the jet lag to consider,” observes Nathalie Constanty, consultant for Le Bon Marché in Paris, over a coffee before Friday night’s Caroline Reznik show, the penultimate of Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW).
We are in Carriageworks, the event’s three-runway venue — a former rail repair warehouse — in the gentrified inner city Sydney neighbourhood of Eveleigh. Outside the venue, dusk is falling as local influencers jostle like birds of paradise for their last #aafw shots of the season. Another Australian Fashion Week came to a close on Friday: the question is, should anybody outside the country be paying attention?
In fashion, as in many other cultural arenas, the reality of distance and time means that Australia tends to languish out of sight and out of mind. Sydney is almost 10,000 miles from New York and 10,500 miles from Paris. Time-wise, its clock runs 14 hours and 8 hours ahead of those two global fashion capitals, respectively. As a southern hemisphere nation, the seasons run opposite to those in the north. And Sydney sits in a country whose geographical size is similar to that of the US, but which has a human population only 5 million greater than that of New York State. It is so far away, so out of sync and so sparsely populated, that Australia could be, and often is, considered something of a backwater.
However, after this week’s shows, it has become apparent — at least to this observer — that Australia’s isolation is as much a strength as it is a weakness. As Constanty concurs: “It may be tough to make the journey here from Europe, but once you’ve made the effort to get to Australia, you find ideas and brands that are unlike any other. And some of them have proved super successful with our customers.”
As an example, she raises Alémais, whose debut show opened AAFW this season. Constanty picked the brand up shortly after founder Lesleigh Jermanus launched it in 2020. “The Alémais aesthetic is really fresh and different — very feminine and wearable in an easy way,” she says. Constanty hails Sir and Oroton as other recently taken-on labels that have proved successful among her Parisian audience. Asked what labels she has picked up this season, she demurs, saying that confidentiality reasons prevent her from spilling the beans.