In the first of our posts from our talented 2016 Fashion Writing Series Finalists, we asked Amy Campbell – “What makes Melbourne so stylish?”
A writer from Melbourne, Amy is a past Festival Volunteer and Buzzcuts VAMFF Cultural Reviewer and is excited to contribute to the world of fashion writing.
Last year, sitting between the bleachers that line the VAMFF runway, I was met with an unexpected thought. Slotted between a father and a grandmother, I could have been at any cultural celebration, anywhere in the city.
I could have been sitting inside the MCG, watching a football match unfold. Or front row at Her Majesty’s Theatre, waiting for the cast of Georgy Girl to take the floor.
But there I was, with heels on and notebook in hand, edged between two people that had never seen a fashion show unfold. And they couldn’t have been more excited about the night’s proceedings. It was at this moment I realised that to Melbourne, fashion is a very special thing. And unlike many of the globe’s major fashion capitals, it’s not only the fashion crowd that get to play part in this wonderful world.
For Melburnians, fashion isn’t an industry. It’s a community. It’s not an exclusive realm only the high-end hierarchy can revel in; it’s an open-invitation celebration, and just like sport, theatre, food and art, fashion is a vein pumping our city full of it’s vibrant creative pulse.
At the National Gallery of Victoria, fashion exhibitions attract the largest and most diverse audience. When Jean Paul Gaultier came to town in late 2014 it wasn’t only the fashion crowd lusting after a preview of his parisienne pinstripes. Premier Daniel Andrews, Magda Szubanski and actor Geoffrey Rush wanted in on opening night action, too.
When the Spring Racing Carnival rolls around, the frocks and fascinators attract as much attention as the horses sprinting down the straight. And there’s no denying that at the annual Brownlow Medal, footballs ‘night of nights, ’ the sartorial sensations caressing the red carpet attract as much attention as the vote count itself.
And to me, what’s most extraordinary about such events is the championing of Australian designers. From Rebecca Judd’s ceaseless sporting of J’Aton Couture to Margaret Zhang doing Dion Lee for Derby Day, there’s a certain pride that comes with dressing in a local design.
Maybe this is because in Melbourne, fashion feels touchable. It’s not a distant fantasy; it’s a living, breathing reality.
From Gertrude Street to South Yarra, the brains behind our city’s most celebrated labels can be seen casually sipping coffee in their favourite cafés. Designers will wave from flagship facades, as they redress mannequins in our iconic conservative-cool vibe. And they’ll delight in chatting to customers about the weather, or the next best way to wear black on black. Because just like you and I and the rest of the city, they are a cog in this unique symbiosis of style.
Thinking back on the numerous interviews I’ve been privileged to conduct with Melburnian design talent, I realise the conversation always comes back around to how fortunate we are to live in city that – pardon the cliché, is so passionate about it’s fashion.
And above all, perhaps what’s most warming about this culture is that for young people like me, breaking into the fashion industry isn’t as impossible as it’s widely believed to be. To be honest, I didn’t actually realise this until I visited two major fashion capitals overseas, where even the craftiest fashion graduates from cream-of-the-crop colleges struggle to find their feet after school. In Melbourne, the fashion community nurtures its next gen. The fact graduate showcases attract as much attention as premium designer runways is only a testament to this.
I guess fashion in Melbourne is more like a family than an elite enigma. And staying true to our city’s diverse genetic makeup, it’s a very eclectic and open-minded clan; one that’s willing to support creative talent of the most weird and wonderful proportions.
And the VAMFF Cultural Program is the nucleus of this family. Every year, it’s giving birth to a bunch of new initiatives allowing fashion to be experienced in ways I never knew existed.
Whether you’re fervent for film, want to learn more about sustainable style or know nothing about fashion at all, I guarantee there is an event, exhibition, or educational opportunity somewhere on this year’s schedule for you.
Being able to attend a fashion festival and rub shoulders with creative royalty is one thing. But attending a fashion festival alongside members of the community present purely for the cultural experience is something very special. There’s not many fashion weeks worldwide where such patronage is possible, and as a young writer striving to bring positivity to the fashion pages, it’s things like this that restore my faith in our fast-changing industry.
Melbourne is a unique city. And VAMFF is a very unique fashion week. As the 2016 festival enters it’s 20th year, there’s no reason not to celebrate.