The Moments We Loved The Most At Australian Fashion Week 2024

By Dan Ahwa
Models backstage at the Romance Was Born show during Australian Fashion Week Presented By Pandora. Photo / Nina Franova/Getty Images.

That’s a wrap for Australian Fashion Week 2024. What piqued our interest the most? Fashion director Dan Ahwa shares several memorable (and mesmerising) observations from the week that was.

Maybe it was the postponement announcement of this year’s New Zealand Fashion Week and the recent closures of some of

They were designers like Paris Mitchell Temple and Georgie Cherrie of Paris Georgia who held an intimate dinner at Le Foote restaurant. They were Auckland-based designer Rory William Docherty who was the only international and Kiwi designer to show this year. “It signals Australian Fashion Week’s position as an APAC destination for designers to showcase their resort collections to the world,” explained Natalie Xenita, the vice-president/managing director, IMG Fashion Events and Properties, Asia-Pacific, at the week’s official ‘Welcome to Country’ opening.

They were the behind-the-scenes selling appointments for brands such as Wynn Hamlyn and Florence & Fortitude, the latter now selling to various key stores and customers in the US and Dubai.

They were stylists and editors from local publications. And it was owner of New Zealand Fashion Week Feroz Ali in town, connecting with designers and industry insiders on the ground. When we caught up for coffee during the week, Feroz was particularly impressed with the showmanship at Romance Was Born and the official opening’s welcoming of key stakeholders. The ‘Welcome to Country’ is one of my favourite moments of the week, where a centuries-old smoke ceremony takes place, a reminder of the perspective it takes to balance a successful Fashion Week in 2024. This year’s ceremony was officiated by Gadigal elder Uncle Raymond Weatherall.

New Zealanders in Oz is of course nothing new, but in 2024, the potential to lean closer to a much larger scale Fashion Week like Australia’s makes sense. What New Zealand designers, creatives, models and agents offer the Australian market is a point of difference and a unique perspective as this panel of respected insiders shared earlier in the week.

As a handful of Australian designers are flocking overseas to compete on an even bigger scale at global Fashion Weeks and fashion trade shows including Dion Lee, Zimmermann and Christopher Esber, it’s a chance for not only emerging talent and indigenous designers to help shape the identity of Australian Fashion Week, but for New Zealand creative to help further contribute to its future.

Designers such as Deadly Ponies, Kate Sylvester, World, Karen Walker and Zambesi have all delivered memorable shows and collections at past Australian Fashion Weeks, welcome proof that New Zealanders are adept at showcasing thoughtful spring/summer and resort collections that appeal to a competitive Australian market.

NSW Minister for the Arts John Graham speaks during the Welcome To Country for Australian Fashion Week. Photo / Getty Images
NSW Minister for the Arts John Graham speaks during the Welcome To Country for Australian Fashion Week. Photo / Getty Images

This year it was particularly reassuring to have NSW Minister for the Arts John Graham on hand to say a few words at the official ‘Welcome to Country’ opening, with a general view to committing to the efforts of the event and the wider fashion industry.

“This is a very important week on the nation’s cultural calendar,” said Graham. “It turns the spotlight onto our designers, brands and our uniquely Australian style. It brings visitors, media and fashion buyers from all around the world and is the premiere annual leading lace for the Australian fashion industry. Fashion is aligned with everything we do, we engage with it every day whether we like or not, when we decide how we present ourselves to the world. It intersects with so many other things that we do.

“We saw Beare Park team up with the Matilda’s. On Netflix, the Heartbreak High reboot took Australian designers like Alix Higgins to a global audience; and in music, Taylor Swift caused a sensation by wearing Dion Lee to the Super Bowl. All examples of the global impact of Australian fashion.”

“For the state government, the fashion industry intersects with so many of our priorities, since last year’s event we’ve launched a creative communities arts policy, focusing on connecting artists with creative industries. The policy is about providing places and spaces for our creatives to gather, create and perform.

“Events like Australian Fashion Week are at the centre of our visitor growth strategy and in education, we’re teaching and inspiring the next generation of designers and practitioners. That’s one of the reasons why this week you’ll see in its 25th year, the TAFE NSW Fashion Design Studio showcasing its graduates on the runway. Some of the success stories from that programme include Zimmermann, Dion Lee and Romance Was Born.”

Looks from Romance Was Born's 'The Nothing' collection. Photos / Getty Images
Looks from Romance Was Born's 'The Nothing' collection. Photos / Getty Images

Most memorable show

For lovers of fantasy, Romance Was Born stole the show.

It feels facetious to pick just one show here as there were some highly produced and slick runway presentations this week both onsite at Carriageworks and offsite, but the one that stood out for me would have to be Romance Was Born. A toss between the avant-garde creations of Jodan Gogos and the avant-garde creations of designer power duo Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales of Romance Was Born, the latter’s show moved me in a way a runway show hasn’t for some time.

With a runway that featured giant pendulous moon orbs dangling from the ceiling in Gallery One, both Anna and Luke took guests to an intergalactic, otherworldly place, a utopia of fashion that saw a range of pieces inspired by the work of Australian artist Zaachariaha Fielding. Inspired by classic sci-fi films including The Lost Boys and Blade Runner, the pair’s signature love of colour, print and embellishment was a welcome tonic to the week’s mostly pragmatic offerings.

But this is what makes a Romance Was Born unique. New Zealand model Milo Nelson’s look was one of my favourites — an embellished checkerboard print gown in sheer silk matched with an embellished headpiece was a standout, as was the voluminous dress that began as a retro bomber bodice before exploding into a tiered multi-coloured ruffle trapeze dress.

Expertly styled with complementary retro sneakers and ankle socks by stylist Peter Simon-Philips, the collection of 44 haute looks was a celebration of the whimsy and craft the brand is synonymous with, as models walked down the cavernous runway like a parade of modern-day Nefertiti’s and Cleopatra’s landing on Mars. Entitled ‘The Nothing’, the collection was a mesmerising combination of the past meeting the future.

“We love Zaachariah’s energetic and visceral paintings that honour the visual language of ancient culture,” explained the designers in their show notes. “His iconography reflects his own unique energy and way of being, which exudes generosity of spirit and a love and curiosity for his country.”

Honourable mention

The multidisciplinary creative and artist Iordanes Spyridon Gogos has redefined creativity and fashion for a new generation of artists in Australia. The show featured the designer’s artful and artisanal point of view, with a runway cameo of names including Elaine George (Vogue Australia’s first First Nations cover star), Caroline Gaultier from The Real Housewives of Sydney, and former leading New Zealand model Angela Tiatia, who is now an award-winning multimedia artist based in Sydney.

Michael Lo Sordo's collaborative gown with Creed. Photo / Getty Images
Michael Lo Sordo's collaborative gown with Creed. Photo / Getty Images

Best sponsor activation

Creed’s three-year commitment to Australian Fashion Week started with simple ideas executed well.

If you’re old enough to recall when Australian Fashion Week was held at the glamourous venue of Circular Quay in Darlinghurst, you’re old. In fact, they’ve been held at the iconic Carriageworks since 2013, the former Railway Workshops transformed into a multi-arts urban cultural precinct imbued with so much history. It remains a familiar backdrop for street-style peacocks each year with its distinctive red brick exterior, but inside, the malleable space is divided into galleries for runway shows, activations for key sponsors, a media room and more.

While each year presents some surprising activations from brands (a laundromat from one sponsor is forever engrained in my brain from last year’s event), this year the site felt a lot less hectic. Luxury fragrance sponsor Creed set up a champagne bar on site that was in keeping with the premium branding of Australian Fashion Week.

The Creed bar at Carriageworks during Australian Fashion Week 2024. Photo / Agence de Parfum
The Creed bar at Carriageworks during Australian Fashion Week 2024. Photo / Agence de Parfum

Signing up as the official fragrance partner for AFW for the next three years, the collaboration was marked by a slinky collaborative dress designed by Sydney’s king of sex appeal Michael Lo Sordo. The exclusive silk gown is rendered in the brand’s royal purple hue.

In addition, the brand had its own museum at Carriageworks, where guests could immerse themselves in Creed’s history through installations that spotlighted the story of the brand’s evolution from bespoke tailoring to luxury fragrance. These key touchpoints felt simple and not overbearing, adding to the event’s premium reputation and showing other premium brands that it is possible to create simple yet effective activations.

Menswear looks from Albus Lumen reosrt 2025 at Australian Fashion Week Presented by Pandora. Photos / Getty Images
Menswear looks from Albus Lumen reosrt 2025 at Australian Fashion Week Presented by Pandora. Photos / Getty Images

Favourite menswear

Founded in 2015, Australian stylist Marina Afonina’s brand stood out for a disheveled kind of resortwear.

Being the opening designer for Fashion Week can come with a lot of pressure, but Albus Lumen’s energetic, bohemian perspective was a really good start to the week. The parade of ultra-skinny models was something that didn’t quite sit comfortably with me though and maybe something to consider for any designer, given the tall task of setting the tone for the week with an opening show.

The menswear looks did stand out — a slouchy, navy suit was a highlight as was the slightly reconstructed shirt with frayed panels. Entitled ‘Rebellion’, this seventh Australian Fashion Week show from the brand was slightly dystopian too, with Marina utilising all archive pieces upcycled, redone, recoloured, reconstructed and dishevelled to offer a new take on the brand.

A design from Joseph & James during the David Jones Indigenous Fashion Projects show during Australian Fashion Week Presented By Pandora 2024. Photo / Getty Images
A design from Joseph & James during the David Jones Indigenous Fashion Projects show during Australian Fashion Week Presented By Pandora 2024. Photo / Getty Images

Another favourite menswear collection from the week was from Joseph & James, part of the David Jones Indigenous Fashion Projects runway show, a vital example of how a major retailer is getting behind the creativity and work of a talented cohort of First Nation fashion businesses.

Taking streetwear to an elevated level, the brand, designed by Melbourne-based Juanita Page, offered easy separates, louche tailoring and playful prints with a slightly retro twist.

Honorary mention

Biased opinion here, but New Zealander Rory William Docherty really did have some terrific menswear in the mix. Most notable was a pair of oversized trousers and a shirt with a matching tie combo, along with an orange short-sleeved knit top with a linen kilt. Perfection.

Left to right: Verner, Beare Park and Alix Higgins. Photos / Getty Images
Left to right: Verner, Beare Park and Alix Higgins. Photos / Getty Images

Outfits of the week

A trifecta of well-styled runway fits were noted.

This is, of course, subjective. But as a stylist I can appreciate it when a designer and their styling team deliver a look down the runway that does the most work — showcasing a designer’s vision, offering a wearability that several body types and ages can enjoy wearing while looking effortless. These are just three that I noted in my notebook.

Beare Park look #24 styled by Nichhia Wippell

A mix of both old money and new, what I loved was the mix of layers here with a crisp shirt worn underneath a creweck sweater and a cardigan, tucked inside a pair of denim shorts. A sweeping wool coat, one of the best from the week, is supported by flats and a suede Yu Mei handbag as part of the brand’s collaboration with the Wellington favourite.

Verner look #6 styled by designer Ingrid Verner

Call me old-fashioned, but I do like to see Australia’s coastal references and surf culture represented in the clothes when I’m at Australian Fashion Week. The sub-culture from an Australian lens is what makes it work famous and alluring to people from overseas. What Melbourne-based designer Ingrid Verner offered with her collection was maybe an elevated take on this, and I particularly love her easy nostalgia and the kind of kitschy motifs one might romanticise when it comes to suburban malaise. A mid-century-looking jacket fitted at the waist worn with board shorts and sandals is an easy shortcut to understanding what Ingrid’s clothes are all about: casual elegance that can only be from Australia.

Alix Higgins look #3 styled by Sophia Stamellos

The community that designer Alix Higgins surrounds themselves with is what I love to see at any Fashion Week. The people who mean the most to the designer and who have helped shape their point of view are some of the most important people at Fashion Week. The collection itself featured pieces with words emblazoned across them like ‘electric’ and ‘crush’, along with easy T-shirt dresses and polo shirts for all genders rendered skew-whiff. Look #2 was particularly fun with its ruffle neck collar peeking out of a classic 50s off-duty uniform — polo shirt, chinos and canvas sneakers.

Left to right: Carla Zampatti, Wackie Ju and Mastani at Australian Fashion Week 2024 presented by Pandora. Photos / Getty Images
Left to right: Carla Zampatti, Wackie Ju and Mastani at Australian Fashion Week 2024 presented by Pandora. Photos / Getty Images

Favourite special occasion

When it comes to glamour, Sydney knows how to turn it on.

It’s hard to define what the term ‘glamour’ even means in this day in age, but three designers offered up the type of glamorous shapes and embellishments that offered a solution for the customer who needs something slightly unique and special for a more formal dress code.

It was good to see Australian Fashion Week stalwart Carla Zampatti return to the schedule under the direction of the brand’s new creative director, Karlie Ungar, and the first since the passing of Zampatti herself in 2021. After a four-year absence, a lot was riding on this return, and the brand’s thoughtful tribute to its founder.

Elsewhere, I loved Wackie Ju’s take on glamour, with a suitably dramatic red and white fish-tail gown that explored the Melbourne-based designer’s Chinese heritage.

Mastani was another standout show from the week for its unapologetic love of glamorous fabrics. Partnering with Indian-based textile recycler Paiwand Studio, founder and creative Kudrat Makkar sent over 1000 kilos of textile offcuts and trimmings collected from the last six years of garment production to the studio, which then upcycled them into new fabrics using conventional Indian hand-looms. A runway cameo from New Zealand model Amanda Bransgrove was a welcome surprise, the veteran model’s first-ever Australian Fashion Week runway.

Guests attending Australian Fashion Week. Photos / Getty Images
Guests attending Australian Fashion Week. Photos / Getty Images

On the street

As firm believers of personal self-expression, this year’s parade of personal style did not disappoint.

If you take a look at our pick of the best street-style looks from Australian Fashion Week this year, you’ll see that the team was drawn to authentic style, colour and the various ways people of all ages were dressing for the week.

The keffiyeh scarf and its distinctive black and white check print made an impact, worn in various ways by several guests and attendees in solidarity with Palestine and providing some perspective for guests, proving that fashion can indeed be political.

Amy Lawrence's raw silk collection was a standout at the Next Gen show. Photos / Getty Images
Amy Lawrence's raw silk collection was a standout at the Next Gen show. Photos / Getty Images

Favourite emerging designer

Like wood nymphs, Amy Lawrence’s ethereal models stood out at the Next Gen showcase.

Melbourne designer Amy Lawrance was a standout amongst an excellent cohort of fresh names as part of the Next Gen show presented by DHL. Described by the designer as “Contemplative. Hand-crafted. Science-fiction”, the resulting collection of structured dresses was created from raw, greige, untreated, undyed silk which made an impact on the runway as models shuffled past complete with matching silk bonnets. A sheath dress featured a line-up of mother-of-pearl buttons down the back, while a skirt with pencil pleats at the hip offered an impressive couture-like silhouette. Along with the headpieces, complementary bags and socks with laces gave the overall outfits an ethereal spirit.

Dan Ahwa is Viva’s fashion and creative director and a senior premium lifestyle journalist for the New Zealand Herald, specialising in fashion, luxury, arts and culture. He is also an award-winning stylist with over 17 years of experience, and is a co-author and co-curator of The New Zealand Fashion Museum’s Moana Currents: Dressing Aotearoa Now.

More Australian Fashion Week

Keep up with all our coverage from the week that was.

What does it take to sell New Zealand fashion to the Australian market? Five fashion insiders have thoughts. At Australian Fashion Week this week, fashion director Dan Ahwa surveys a panel of industry insiders to ask them whether there’s still mutual benefit for our fashion industries regarding our time-honoured trans-Tasman connection.

Australian Fashion Week 2024: Yu Mei and It label Beare Park debut a plush partnership. The Wellington luxury handbag brand made a welcome addition to the styling for former financier turned fashion designer Gabriella Pereira’s discreet collection of clothes. Yu Mei designer Jessie Wong talks to Dan Ahwa about the stylish partnership.

The coolest looks from Australian Fashion Week. Who looked good, and what can we take away from the street style in Sydney?

Australian Fashion Week 2024: Fashion designer Rory William Docherty’s grand Sydney debut. The Auckland-based designer carries on the momentum of his New Zealand Fashion Week runway debut in 2023 with a solo show in Sydney this week. Here he shares a visual diary of the journey to putting on a show, and what it takes to make an impact.

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