The annual iD International Emerging Designer Awards showcased in Dunedin highlighted the award as one that has come into its own over the last eight years, providing ample exposure for budding fashion designers not only in New Zealand, but from around the globe.
Vying for the top award last night were 28 finalists from seven different countries, including entrants from as far afield as Israel and Switzerland, hailing from some of the world's most prestigious fashion schools.
"For the first time since this international fashion competition was launched in 2005, we have a finalist from Canada, with an even stronger representation from New Zealand and Australia," said the event co-ordinator, Victoria Muir.
"Every year I'm amazed at the quality of the entries we receive, and this year is no different."
Having covered the event for the last five years, it's encouraging to see the development of one of the few remaining platforms for emerging designers to showcase their work on a professional level in front of a discerning eye of industry leaders and media.
There's been a rapid trajectory of success experienced by a handful of past participants who've all gone on to pursue successful fashion careers, including designer Emily Miller-Sharma (Emerging Design Runner Up 2007) who will be debuting her Liam collection at tonight's iD Dunedin Fashion Show at the historic Dunedin Railway Station.
Facing a tough judging process, the finalists were selected by top New Zealand fashion designers Tanya Carlson (Carlson), Sara Aspinall (Company of Strangers) and Anjali Stewart (Twenty-seven names). The winners were selected by a final judging panel that included Carlson, Margi Robertson from Nom*D, the head of the Fashion Design Studio at Ultimo's TAFE college in Sydney and influential Australian fashion figure Nicholas Huxley. Special guest designers were also on the panel - Lutz Huelle and David Ballu of Lutz Huelle and special guest judge, award winning New Zealand born/British fashion journalist Hilary Alexander.
Alexander went on to explain how the judges picked their winner. "Overall, the award winners scored highly in all areas we were looking at: creativity, innovation, wearability, fabrication and catwalk appeal."
Last night's winner was another addition to the event's impressive alumni, with Carolina Barua from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology taking out the top prize of $5,000, with a collection entitled 'S'swell'. The range focused on elements of historical dress, particularly occidental societies as far back as the 15th century. Highlighting delicate pie-crust collars and reference to Victorian undergarments, Barua was a crowd favourite, and once extracted from its outfits, each piece was entirely wearable.
Second place and $3000 was awarded to Patricia Kapeleris from the University of Technology, Sydney, with her post-apocalyptic inspired collection entitled 'Urban Blight'. The collection highlighted structural shapes and the best use of an accent colour on utilitarian belts and heel spats in bright orange.
Rounding out the prize winners in third place, earning $1000 was another favourite, Natalia Grzybowski, also from the University of Technology, Sydney. Grzybowski's cohesive collection featured razor sharp dresses with oversized perennial floral prints and peplum detailing that was reminiscent of a younger Dion Lee.
Other highlights from the awards included Whitecliffe College of Art and Design graduate Yun Shin Do's ethereal collection 'Twists' inspired by traditional Korean folklore and art; as well as Renana Krebs of the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Isarel, who won the Charles Parsons Special Prize of $250 cash and a $250 voucher. Sydney University of Technology student Ben Bala's collection 'Specific Objects' was another favourite with a fresh take on minimalist dressing and a sharp colour palette of grey, yellow and white.
* Favourite Collection: 'Pictures Seen' by Tanja Bradaric and Taro Ohame (University of Applied Arts, Vienna Austria). Also won the 'Most Commercial Collection'. Showcased strong sportswear references and good ideas.
* Most on Trend collection: Sally Huang from Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design in Auckland showcased a collection that taps into fashion's current obsession with all things oriental on the back of recent Fall 2012 presentations from Dries Van Noten, Jason Wu and Proenza Schouler. Huang's East meets West collection touched on traditional Chinoiserie motifs and Origami like shapes.
* Best Menswear: 'Maramures' by Caitlan Murray (University of Technology, Sydney). Folkloric approach to knitwear with a vivid colour palette of red, green, purple, cream.
* Best Outfit: 'Handed Down' by Luka Mues (Massey University, Wellington). The first outfit from this collection - a gown with intricate beading on a body-con mesh top half with pleated detailing at the waist. It fit the model perfectly and made a strong point for modern-day elegance.
* Best Styling: 'My Evil Eye' by Grace Averis (School of Design, Otago Polytechnic). Socks worn with sandals; round sunglasses attached to chains.
* Best Soundtrack: Keira Paradice from the University of Technology, Sydney. Perfect use of the haunting track 'Einstein on the Beach' by Phillip Glass.