INDUSTRY SNAPSHOT | MEET YOLANDA FINCH
General Manager, Program & Operations, VAMFF.
Ever wondered who is is behind some of our favourite Australian Fashion Events? This month we catch up with one of the magic makers from the VAMFF team, Yolanda Finch...
Describe your role in the Fashion Industry:
I’m part of the management team that runs the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, an annual major event that showcases and celebrates fashion in all its forms, from the runway through to arts and cultural activities, ideas and business platforms and so much more. My role is to develop and present a program that is inspiring and engaging, bringing audiences into direct relationship with the work of designers and fashion industry practitioners. I also have an operational responsibility within our company, so am part of running the business as well as the events that the Festival presents.
Where that sits in industry terms is that we are most visibly working at the presentation end of a fashion collection’s lifecycle, so whilst we do a lot of work year-round, behind the scenes with the industry locally and internationally, our signature activities are the premium runways and events we stage each March to present A/W collections to a consumer, industry and media audience.
What is your Industry background?
How did you come to this line of work?
My professional background is very specifically in the fashion events sphere. I worked in event production for many years but became increasingly focused on my specialty, which was runway production and large-scale public fashion event production. From there it was a natural progression into the management team here at the Festival, and with 14 years of Festivals under my belt, I’m enjoying progressing into a more senior management role and leaving the on-the-ground runway work to people with more youthful vigour to carry them through the rigours of that style of work – it’s gruelling but amazing! On a personal front I’ve had a life-long love of fashion and the arts and have studied fashion and fine arts at tertiary level. Basically I am sincere about wishing to contribute to an industry where creative excellence is nurtured and where the fashion industry is given a genuinely celebrated platform within the wider community.
What is your favourite part about what you do? What drives you?
I would have always said that my favourite thing was seeing our events come to life and in many ways that will never fade. There is a magic to a runway show that is irreplaceable and the pride you feel presenting great work to an audience, that’s very special. But I do find that these days I so much enjoy working with the Festival management team on a day to day basis, as well as so many of our stakeholders from creative to commercial realms, I feel I’m lucky to be where I am. I think it’s the problem solving, negotiating challenges and creative thinking to bring about the outcomes we have that I enjoy the most.
You have worked with some amazing fellow creatives, are there any individuals or projects that have particularly stood out for you?
This is always hard for me to answer because there have been so many since the first day I started in this world, that I fear offending anyone by omission! Each Festival Director and CEO has been absolutely knock-out and inspiring in very different ways and I’ve learnt a lot from each. The same is true for the designers, stylists, music directors, choreographers, art directors, photographers, filmmakers, producers, editors... our world is populated with exceptional people and I’m lucky to have been a part of so many projects that have an audience to see them.
Today I’m thinking about a project some years ago that we developed as the Australian submission in the International Emerging Fashion Talent Award at London Fashion Week. I worked with artist Vincent Fantauzzo, filmmaker Barney Howells, 5 Australian designers and a cast and crew of sincerely interesting people to develop a short film with soundtrack by 1200 Techniques and series of photographic stills. The large format photographs were installed on the windows of Australia House on the Strand in London which was thrilling – until a construction project meant that scaffolding covered the entire façade and our beautiful images were obscured! Nevertheless, they were stunning and the project process has always stayed with me as an amazing experience.
What are you currently working on? What/who should we keep an eye out for?
Our team is ‘all systems go’ planning in the 2017 Festival. I’m excited that we will present the entire program under one set of dates for the first time next year, meaning we have a 19 day Festival spanning Fashion, Arts, Ideas and Shop activities – it will be mega! There are lots of new designer names on the program who are really exciting and I hope our audience gets behind them, buys their collections and gets really proud to be wearing local, ethical, interestingly designed fashion.
What advice would you give to those looking to follow your footsteps?
My advice is that whatever your interest or end-goal is, that all experience that leads towards that is worth investing your time and energy in, regardless of the immediate benefits. Whilst fashion is a fast-paced industry, to have a long career you have to be patient, work fast in the immediate instant but with a long view to what all your experiences might add up to eventually. You have to be thick skinned and try to see beyond any dramas, they pass but your learnings of how to deal with them will remain. And a measured approach and a calm temperament will be attractive to others, in an industry where you really do have to be ‘invited’ into each and every key opportunity. A lot of the time it’s not what you do, but how you do it that gets you noticed.
Where do you see future opportunity for Australian Fashion talent?
I think there is an abundance of local design talent that we should be really excited about, and there are lots of admirable ideas about sustainable innovation that I hope can be supported and integrated more and more into the mainstream. I believe there are opportunities for Australian designers to capitalise on the flattening of the seasonal barriers globally, and at a local level, to enter into direct and continual dialogue with customers in a way that will create stronger local consumer support for Australian design and manufacture.
What does ‘Australian Fashion/ Style’ mean to you?
The word independence springs to mind for me; the most inspiring Australian fashion designers in my experience forge their way forward in a tough industry with a sense of independence that makes them unique. I think of style as the place where the fashion industry and individuals meet, where designers’ visions are interpreted and customised by their devotees, and in a nation as diverse as ours I cannot but think that Australian Style is characterised by wonderful extremes of diversity.
Keep updated with all things VAMFF via their website HERE
Runway images by Lucas Dawson Photography