(Repeats story published Saturday; no change to text)
By Jane Wardell
SYDNEY, April 13 A bemused Australian Rail Corp
employee in a safety vest sat by a roped-off dusty train
carriage, watching a bevy of young women clad in short skirts
and spiked heels negotiate the deeply grooved rail lines that
criss-crossed a disused shed.
Welcome to Fashion Week, Australian style.
The Australian fashion extravaganza, which this week showed
its Spring/Summer collection, has gained increasing prominence
as major retailers are drawn to an economy that came through the
global financial crisis relatively unscathed.
Organizers said on Saturday that the week-long show, held
for the first time in disused rail yards on Sydney's grimy but
gentrifying east side, welcomed nearly 2,000 delegates to watch
the 66 established and emerging designers presenting 52 shows.
The event was live streamed for the first time as well this
season and Jarrad Clark, director of global production with IMG,
which oversaw the week, said most shows were near capacity.
"We are the country (where) they come to find unpretentious,
cool, urban chic," said Clark.
Typical was local Sydney label Manning Cartell, which lived
up to its tough-luxe reputation, showing a futuristic collection
of metallic boxy cropped tops, formal shorts and pencil dresses.
Ultimately, more than 20,000 people tuned in from over 77
countries, reflecting interest in fashion produced by a country
that has experienced an unbroken two decades of economic growth.
Australian luxury fashion retailers such as Oroton and Sass
& Bide are experiencing solid sales alongside international
luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel.
Australia, which has long had a reputation of easy-going,
laid back style, turned up the edgy factor with a move from its
long-time home on Sydney's harbour to disused rail yards in the
city's gentrifying, but still grimy, inner east.
TURNING UP THE EDGY FACTOR
Models for designers including Christopher Esber, Alex
Perry, Jayson Brunsdon, Easton Pearson and Christina Exie
paraded down catwalks surrounded by concrete walls, air
conditioning ducts and floor grills.
For designers like Exie, the winner of Project Runway
Australia who was presenting her first international collection,
the new surroundings perfectly suited the stripped back, modern
aesthetic of their collections.
But not everybody was happy to switch the breathtaking
harbour views of the Overseas Passenger Terminal for the
Carriageworks, the rail yards that have been revamped by the
government as an arts and performance space.
"Circular Quay was better, there was more of a buzz and a
fun atmosphere," said Caroline Cox, the designer of shoe line
There were also grumbles about IMG's decision to move the
show ahead from its traditional dates in May and reports of a
dearth of potential buyers at the Premiere trade event running
alongside the catwalk shows.
IMG brought the event forward to bring it closer in line
with buying schedules and other shows around the world, but many
participants said it still wasn't early enough.
Kathryn Cizeika and her design partner Katie Freeman had
hoped to meet more international buyers for their Empire Rose
label and were disappointed at the light foot traffic past their
stand in the Premiere trade hall.
"We did have a good talk with a prospective Chinese buyer
this morning, but it's been slow," Cizeika said.
(Editing by Elaine Lies)