With the battle for survival in fashion, it’s easy to overlook the amount of emerging designers yet to be discovered, with a deft touch for design. There are some designers, waiting to be the next Karl Lagerfeld and there are some that may not be so fortunate to make it.
Phoebe Garland co-owns Garland & Garland Fashion, with Robert Garland who was described by Ragtrader as a “veteran rag trader” with over 30 years experience in the fashion industry. Between the two of them, Phoebe & Robert Garland have over 50 years sales experience in fashion, publishing and advertising. Garland & Garland Fashion is a leading fashion agency based in Sydney and they are regularly sought for comment from various media on business fashion topics and issues.
Having said that, Australia is lucky enough to have a vast amount of talented designers waiting in the wings. And talent there certainly is! With all the big names in Australian fashion, it’s easy to forget that just because they are not a big name, some of the emerging ones can hold just as much weight in terms of design and creativity as some of the better known ones. They just need the chance to be shone.
There is one lady in particular who is passionate about promoting and nurturing some of these untapped talented designers. I had the immense privilege of speaking with Jane Hayes, founder of The Spirit of the Black Dress, an event and competition, (part of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival) which nurtures emerging designers, by showcasing talent and innovation through sustainability.
P.G: Jane, Tell us about The Spirit of the Black Dress and how it became part of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival?
J.H: The Spirit of the Black Dress started in 2009. The intention was to promote emerging, sustainable Australian fashion designers by providing them with exposure, and to show the Australian buying public the talent living in their own back yard. The project commenced on the official calendar of Melbourne Spring Fashion Week, and following a fantastic response we presented it to The L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival and were accepted onto the Cultural calendar. We are now entering into our fourth year of production and third year on The L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival calendar. We are very proud of the success of the event.
PG: What are the requirements for emerging designers to enter?
J.H: A designer has to meet the following requirements to be selected as part of The Spirit of the Black Dress: • Be a designer in their first five years of production. • Be sustainable, which can mean the way they source their fabric, treat and die their fabric or how they run their studios. • Be an Australian based fashion designer.
P.G: How do you choose the judges to judge the event? What are the criteria to become a judge and whom do you have on board for 2012?
J.H: We have been very privileged to have some amazing and talented people participate in The Spirit of the Black Dress as judges over the past three years. Some of the past judges have included Janice Breen Burns, Karen Webster, Roger Leong and Robert Buckingham. Our judges for the project are selected because they are respected members of the Australian fashion industry or related industries such as public relations or media. They also need to have had longevity in their career, a strong sense of style and a keen eye. The judging panel for any year needs to be diverse so that we get different perspectives on what constitutes quality design and sustainable fashion.
For example this year we have Jenny Bannister (notable Australian fashion designer) and Philip Boon (celebrity stylist) from Fashion Torque who as a duo know what constitutes good, innovative fashion and design. We also have Kyra Pybus (owner of Pybus PR) who has a finger on the pulse of the public heartbeat, what they want and who will be saleable. We are also fortunate to have Sarah Gale (owner of Fashionista Business Consultancy Group and former Project Runway Australia judge) who knows good design, what buyers want from a label and how to guide the business development of fashion-based businesses. Phoebes Garland (owner of Garland and Garland Fashion) brings to the panel years of experience from a commercial perspective and a strong sense of design and aesthetics, which will assist in selecting the leaders of the pack. As you can see, we are yet again spoilt by the talent of our judging panel for 2012. We are also privileged to have Dean Hewitt and JC Lloyd – Southwell d’ Anvers from Madam Virtue & Co as patrons of The Spirit of the Black Dress in 2012.
P.G: How many entries do you get from emerging designers? Are you amazed at the talent out there that has not been discovered?
J.H: When we started in 2009 we had a healthy number of designer submissions to the project especially considering that it was our first year. Since 2009 our level of designer submissions has greatly increased and we are forever amazed at the quality of the designs that are submitted each year. Some of our alumni have gone on to large-scale success, receiving promotions and showing at New York fashion week. One designer dressed Rhianna, a few years ago, and others have left the safe confines of working with other fashion designers and started up their own businesses. We stay in touch with many of the designers from previous years and it is a thrill to watch them grow!
P.G: What opportunities does this provide emerging designers?
J.H: The Spirit of the Black Dress offers emerging Australian fashion designers the platform to showcase their talent and enthusiasm for fashion and sustainable design. The winning ten designers receive a professional photo shoot with a top Australian fashion photographer. This year the talented Christian Blanchard will be working with a top styling, hair and make up team. The images are then shown to the media at a media launch and retailers evening, where each designer has the opportunity to talk intimately with buyers from various Australian labels. The images and dresses are then featured at a VIP invite-only opening gala, which also features a fashion film and runway show. The event is attended by members of the Australian fashion industry, fashion media, and public relations agencies. The night is all about the top ten winning designers. For a young designer it is an amazing opportunity to be able to meet the elite of the Australian industry and receive a spread in FashionTrend magazine Australia, our official media sponsor, along with other media opportunities.
P.G: What is the timeline for the event?
J.H: The event takes about 6 months to put together. We are so fortunate to have such a great team working on the event together, they include Jordan Moore, our creative director, Dean Drieberg, our producer and Jemma Luxmoore our designer and retail liaison. We start by confirming our team for the year, which has grown steadily since 2009. We then confirm our theme for the year ahead, pursue sponsorship (which we manage ourselves each year) and select our amazing creative team and photographer. Everyone donates his or her time and creative abilities so generously each year as we are a not-for-profit event.
P.G: Do you think there could be a way to team the designers up at a trade event like Premiere Trade Show or Debut so hopefully some retailers could find new emerging designers to stock in their shops and the designers could get feedback from fashion buyers for their ranges?
J.H: I think this would be a great idea. I would love to have a stand dedicated to The Spirit of the Black Dress each year so that the designers can get greater mileage out of their involvement with the project.
Thank you Jane, a wonderful event supporting these designers. With the majority of manufacturing and mass fashion overseas, I urge retailers to keep an eye on the next new Australian talent by having a look at some of the emerging designers. If you see a potential new emerging designer, give them a go in your boutique and give them a chance to shine. Fashion Exposed supports emerging designers through the Debut section at each trade fair.
Keep abreast of the dates of the winners and of the talented designers of The Spirit of The Black Dress on their website.