With the “fash pack” having descended on Sydney last week for the annual Mercedes Benz fashion week, the question of whether or not the press pack would follow was closely watched by the industry.
The week began with a bang, most major mastheads and news outlets covered the first two days and headlines occupied the homepages of all the major newspapers.
But then everything went back to business as usual. It was if fashion was but a blip on the news radar.
Now in its 20th year, the Mercedes Benz fashion week has had its teething problems and copped its fair share of flack but it looked to have finally come of age. If only its age had also helped it gain some respect and airtime among the old world media – but it was not to be.
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Fashion is big business in Australia. The local luxury retail market alone is worth some $2bn in revenue with an annual growth of more than 10%. Indeed, our designers and their designs are fast becoming hot exports for the world’s fashion meccas. Earlier this year Zimmerman expanded their bricks and mortar stores in New York and the Australian Fashion Chamber even installed a showroom last season in Paris for a crop of our talents to show to buyers and editors on a global stage.
Yet the mainstream media at home has been slow, painfully so, to catch on to the trend. During the week, it was easier to come by coverage from international publications and their correspondents than it was local powerhouses.
The New York Times, international fashion-commerce publication the Business of Fashion and a slew of Asian outlets seemed to have more feet, if not photographers, on the ground than most of the major metropolitan mastheads in Australia. Save for some of the country’s weekend glossy inserts and a few online global mastheads, it is hard to come by fully-fledged fashion journalism among our dailies.
Bianca O’Neill sums up the general air around fashion coverage in a piece about the much-anticipated Oscar de la Renta show for the free street press Fashion Journal:
Typically, when fashion events roll around, daily papers tend to cover the celebrities, mishaps and misadventures rather than the creatives and their clothes. More emphasis is put on the who’s rather than the what’s – or in this case, the wares.
Little value has been associated with a serious sartorial discussion among the more mainstream mastheads in Australia – an oversight that has had visible consequences, with many Australian designers moving abroad to pursue their trade in past decades. Kym Ellery is the latest local talent about to head abroad, with plans to open offices in Paris and New York.
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The Australian Fashion Chamber was formed with the aim of keeping talent at home and nurturing their brands and business has been paramount to the continuation of the country’s rag trade.
At the beginning of fashion week, it was looking like it had paid off with some sparkly media coverage. But then things fizzed out again.
It was as if fashion was a new toy for the big papers, interested one minute and discarded the next until a hot, new edition was released at the end of the week.
Fashion journalism can be more than PR puff pieces. The best fashion writing is illuminating and entertaining and certainly goes far for local industry.
But as for its future in Australia, well that remains up in the air among the stage lights and house music showtunes.