With the close of Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW), we recap on the first physical fashion week held globally after the impact of COVID-19. With a mixture of digital shows, runways, presentations and talk panels, the five day schedule was an insight into the current state of the Australian industry and showcased the resilience local designers have ensued amidst the turbulent 2020/21.
The week started on a high-note with the launch of our industry report commissioned to EY and supported by Afterpay, which highlighted the The Economic Contribution of Australia’s Fashion and Textile Sector. The report delivered some astounding insights including the $27.2 bn contribution the fashion and textile industry has to the Australian economy.
“Afterpay Australian Fashion Week is the centerpiece of our industry, and celebrates the spirit and ingenuity of our designer community. This week will see the industry at its best, while delivering the economic benefit of the most important marketing event of the year for the Australian fashion industry.”
- IMG Vice President-Managing Director, Fashion Events and Properties Asia-Pacific, Natalie Xenita
For the first time in Australian Fashion Week history, the schedule opened with a 65,000-year-old custom: a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony by the Gadigal people. This tribute and consideration to our Indigenous community extended throughout the week - on day three we saw First Nations Fashion Design present a standing ovation worthy runway. With a performance from Muggera dance troupe, FNFD displayed an all-Indigenous fashion showcase curated by Cairns-based Meriam Mer woman Grace Lillian Lee. The show put a spotlight on the role that Indigenous culture plays in Australian fashion and design for over 200 years with a colourful and meaningful display of design techniques that have been used by Indigenous people for generations.
"It's a very momentous occasion for us as First Nations people to be really hitting the ground and showcasing how beautiful and rich our country is not only through our textiles but also through our beautiful models."
- Director, First Nations Fashion & Design, Grace Lillian Lee
In conjunction with the theme of inclusivity of AAFW, taking place on a day of national significance, Mabo Day, Indigenous Fashion Projects presented their runway on day four featuring six Indigenous designers including AFC member MAARA Collective. The runway established the immense talent among our indigenous designers and set in place the significance of their culture and heritage.
Continuing on with day four, our Fashion as a Force for Change talk took place onsite at AAFW. Supported by City of Sydney, this engaging session explored the impact the fashion industry has had and how we can use positive change to build a more ethical, sustainable and inclusive industry. Guest speakers included Mary Lou Ryan (Director of Sustainability & Supply Chain and Co-Founder, Bassike), Grace Lillian-Lee (Director, First Nations Fashion & Design), Leila Naja Hibri (CEO, Australian Fashion Council), Grace Forrest (Founding Director, Walk Free), and Rosanna Iacono (Advisor & Partner, The Growth Activists).
“This fashion week, let's demand change from our position as creators, buyers and business owners. As consumers, let’s make sure businesses know we care and we won’t invest in exploitation. And for the brands and shops that sell them, it's time to stop talking - greenwashing - and start acting. Real transparency, visibility, accountability and action to protect people at every level of your supply chain
- Founding Director, Walk Free, Grace Forrest
This engaging and insightful session hit the hard topics that as an industry are not being talked about enough. A special thank you to our incredible panel and all guests that attended. We have walked away from the talk with a new perspective and a renewed focus on the ways in which we can do better and be better.
In collaboration with ORDRE and IMG, we presented a special AAFW edition of AFC Virtual to further support Australian brands during the AAFW and beyond. Selected designers were invited to join the AAFW edition of AFC Virtual on ORDRE which will continue to run through to 15th July 2021, with a focus on presenting and selling women’s Resort ‘22 collections to domestic and international retail buyers.
Lastly, we would like to celebrate the AFC members that showed at AAFW. The diversity, inclusiveness and quality of design showcased the incredible talent within the Australian industry. The AFC members included: Alice Mccall, Bondi Born, Commas, First Nations Fashion Design, House of Campbell, Indigenous Fashion Projects, Macgraw and Manning Cartell.