From left: St. Agni, Alemais, Maggie Marilyn, Wynn Hamlyn, Aje

Our Australian Fashion Week highlights, from bare-faced models to go-kart runways

AfterPay Australian Fashion Week has taken Sydney by storm, drawing industry insiders from both sides of the ditch for a week of celebrating exceptional fashion on and off the runway. And while the Aussies certainly put on a good show for Resort ’24, it was strong presentations by New Zealand designers that seemed to be the talk of the week, from Maggie Marilyn’s nostalgic, harbour-side affair to Wynn Hamlyn’s full-throttle, after-dark parade, the Kiwi cohort proving yet again how our local designers continue to get better with every season.

Maggie Marilyn

Set against the old-school charm of the Royal Australian Navy Sailing Association’s base in Rushcutters Bay, and bathed in the golden glow of a beautiful Sydney afternoon, Maggie Marilyn‘s first international runway embodied the designer’s message before the show even started: hope in the face of adversity. One by one, models stepped out of a set, cleverly designed by Sarah Jayne Kavali, dressed in a collection dubbed ‘The Best of It,’ that married Maggie Marilyn’s uniquely liveable luxury with new brand signatures, every look underpinned by the designer’s staunchly sustainable approach. From hand-painted floral prints, inspired by Maggie’s mother’s rose garden, to classic ‘MM’ stripes, to rich textures like bouclé wool, denim and bubbled silk, the collection was cohesive and considered, and was topped off (rather appropriately) with a touch of optimistic sparkle in the form of a dress made from biodegradable, plant-based sequins. The whole thing spoke to the designer’s childhood days spent in the Bay of Islands, on or by the water, sun kissed skin, wind in salty hair — a picture of effortless, undone elegance.

Enhancing this idea was the fact that each model walked with a completely bare face. Instead of makeup, Maggie Marilyn teamed up with another Kiwi sustainability entrepreneur, Emma Lewisham, to give each girl who walked a beautiful, natural glow. Here, Mecca Brands’ Skin Director Molly Warkentin ensured she and her team had the time to apply and massage an array of Emma Lewisham’s innovative skincare products into the models’ faces, including its renowned Skin Reset serum, the Illuminating Day Crème and the Illuminating Face and Body Oil.

Alemais

As the official opening show of Australian Fashion Week, Alemais‘ designer Lesleigh Jermanus set a vibrant, joyful tone for the rest of the week, thanks to the ways she harnessed high-voltage glamour, bold colours and new takes on the patterns that have become such a signature (and selling point) for her brand. Coming together via a collision of creative collaboration (including with Sydney-based artist Jedda Daisy-Culley and stylist and costume designer Catherine Baba) and conscious material innovations like recycled sequins and biodegradable materials, the eye-catching collection offered a visually-arresting explosion of colour, with Jermanus likening it to a rainbow (complete with its own pot of gold).

Of course, the collection was called ‘Kaboom’, which, when you look at its aesthetic approach coupled with the way this brand has burst onto the scene since launching only three years ago (now stocked in 215 retailers around the world) is entirely appropriate. It is wonderful to witness a designer unafraid to make a bold mark in a time when ‘quiet luxury’ seems the safest bet. Perhaps, Alemais’ latest outing is a timely reminder for all of us to turn up the volume.

Alemais is available locally from Muse Boutique.

Wynn Hamlyn

Not only was Wynn Hamlyn’s Australian Fashion Week runway set on a neon-lit, go-karting track but from the first leather-clad look, it was clear that its designer, Wynn Crawshaw, had pulled inspiration from the world of motorsports to create his Resort ’24 collection, offering a bold new evolution on his beloved signatures.

Comprising a series of men’s and women’s looks that moved from vintage-style, moto motifs (the matching leather jackets and pants were some of the more standout moments) through to casual, almost Y2K-era denim (from low-slung shorts to long skirts), to uber-feminine details via dresses decorated with bows, midriff-baring tops and slinky, figure-hugging pieces that offered palette-cleansing moments between looks, Crawshaw was flexing his creative muscles in a showcase of his brands inherent versatility and its ability to connect across generations (no mean feat).

There was a cool-kid vibe that ran through the silhouettes and styling here, enhanced by the after-dark atmosphere of the set (like everyone was out after curfew). A sense of nonchalance was created in the effortless way the clothes clung to or swayed around or enveloped the models (aided by the use of Salomon sneakers with a number of the looks), tempered with meticulous details (note the new-season iterations of macramé) altogether giving us the impression that these clothes would infuse our wardrobes with a renewed sense of purpose, whatever we might be getting dressed for.

Wynn Hamlyn is available locally from its flagship store in Commercial Bay.

Aje

Set in the Sydney Modern Project space, a new addition to the Art Gallery of NSW, Aje’s presentation at Australian Fashion Week was a celebration of 15 years — a significant milestone for the brand that has enjoyed incredible growth (now encompassing Aje, Aje Athletica and wellness brand Ikkari) over the last few years. Here, the stark, contemporary elegance of the space provided the perfect backdrop to Aje’s signature silhouettes and vibrant colours. Of course, in such a big moment for the brand, the Aje DNA underpinned every look in this collection, where flirty, floaty dresses, romantic detailing, hand-painted prints and sweet, feminine notes were cleverly juxtaposed with staunch denim moments and tailored touches.

Paying homage to their past while also indicating where they would take Aje in the future, the brand’s Co-Founders Adrian Norris and Edwina Forest created a collection that demonstrated the duo’s deft understanding of longevity (the kind that will continue to keep Aje in business for many years to come).

Aje is available locally from its flagship store in Commercial Bay.

St. Agni

It was her desire to return to the idea of ‘core values’ that saw St. Agni’s Creative Director, Lara Fells present a resort collection that cut to the heart of why this Byron-based brand is so beloved. Built on the idea of versatile, functional wardrobing and clothes that offer refined answers to the question of what to wear every day, (or more specifically, the necessary balance between chic, work-appropriate looks and clothing that enhances the individual) St. Agni has filled a sartorial void for the unique way that it can be folded effortlessly into any kind of wardrobe, but still offer moments that elevate it beyond simply a foundational, ‘basics’ brand.

At Australian Fashion Week, refined, tonal tailoring formed the base, on which Fells layered the sensual sensibility of 90s, after-dark glamour, marrying sleek minimalism with a sharp, masculine edge, and harnessing a palette of moody neutrals tempered with touches of silver for a futuristic touch. From netted gowns to metallic bralettes to chic separates, St. Agni’s new collection spoke to quality, versatility and timeless elegance — values that have long drawn fans to this burgeoning brand.

St. Agni is available locally from Muse Boutique.

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