Canberra’s Fashion Festival – FASHFEST 2015


FASHFEST is an annual four-day fashion showcase celebrating the design talent of the Nation’s capital. In its third year, FASHFEST has also extended its platform to include interstate and international designers alongside our local Canberra talent. I had the pleasure of attending the second night of the program themed ‘The Inventor’. According to the program notes, designers on this night were more concerned with the beauty of their materials and craftsmanship than with the finished garments themselves.


First out on the runway was Recollection, a label designed by Phillipa Soutberg. The collection was inspired by the Australian landscape and featured digital prints created in collaboration with local artist Jay Dall. This was followed by a collection of loose, draped dresses and separates in autumnal colours styled with ornate headwear by Barb Mickelson of BM Designs. Stephanie’s Boutique Lingerie then presented the latest collection of lingerie by Simone Pérèle which interestingly features in every evening of the FASHFEST program. I have to wonder at such a prominent inclusion of a lingerie collection from an International designer. Although Stephanie’s is a local Canberra business and while the collection had the excitement of being from an International label, to me it seemed more of an excuse to have models parading in skimpy lingerie than an effort to support local fashion design.


Next out was Hana, owned by Neda Alemohamma. The collection showed directional, body conscious pieces inspired by a mix of Australian and Persian culture. The headpieces used in styling this collection were, to me, very reminiscent of those often used on the runways of Alexander McQueen and Givenchy in Paris. The fifth collection for the evening was from Belle Bird, a design team working out of Cooma who presented a range of pieces designed to celebrate a woman’s curves. The collection featured highly wearable pieces in a monochrome palette. Next to show was Bronwen Stead who sent out an army of models styled in the image of Victoria’s secret Angels with large, ornate wings. The collection of wings created in Bronwen’s Canberra studio were shown with a range of glittery bikinis by Dana Carmont.


The Label (pictured) designed by CIT graduate Emma O’Rourke showed clean, simple silhouettes in a muted colour palette. The collection had a sensual undertone and was highly wearable. For me this collection was the most mature in terms of design and the closest in feel to the current fashions dictated by the International runways. Canberra designed label, Mimetic, then featured a collection of feminine, structured, tailored pieces ideal for the office environment designed by George McWilliam and Melissa Pompeni. The final collection to show for the evening was from well-known Canberra label, Rockstars and Royalty. The collection featured vintage inspired designs typical of the label with full-skirted dresses in reds, whites and pinks. The pieces were heavily embellished and textured featuring feathers, furs and flowers making for an impressive finale to the evening.


It is amazing to think that Canberra has grown to a point where it can annually sustain four nights of celebrating local fashion, something that would have been unimaginable even 5 years ago. And while FASHFEST exists to showcase local talent, the event is just as much about locals being seen attending as supporting local design. If you arrive at 7pm as suggested you can spend as much time being photographed on the red carpet, socialising, drinking, and being seen than watching the actual fashion show. More in fact if you also attend the official after party. The lure of the red carpet is a huge draw card in selling tickets for this event as we Canberrans still have few opportunities to really dress up and show off.


The inclusion of DAY FIVE in the FASHFEST program this year enables customers to meet with a range of designers and buy pieces directly from them. Although FASHFEST provides a great platform to showcase the work of local designers, up until now here hasn’t been a cohesive way for those designers to sell their pieces to the paying audience unless they are already an established business. This fifth day is a great initiative to further support local designers in not only showcasing their work but by also helping them to build a sustainable business by connecting them with buyers.

For 2016 FASHFEST will be moving to September to align with the international Fashion Calendar. Our Contributor Johanna Dziadkiewicz will be the official FASHFEST illustrator.

Emma Batchelor

Emma Batchelor

As well as a near obsessive interest in fashion, Emma is a former scientist, occasional contemporary dancer, avid reader and self-confessed cat lady (she has three). Emma lived in Leiden in the Netherlands as a baby and Leiden ought to have been her middle name had her mother thought of it at the time and not chosen Louise instead.

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