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Melbourne serves up a commercial feast

Australian designer labels aimed to sell rather than shock at the 2009 Melbourne Fashion Festival, but the commercial direction was not at the expense of creativity, despite the financial gloom.

Black was the dominant colour throughout the week for autumn 09. It was key in Ksubi’s grungy collection of oversized T-shirts with ghostly face prints, graphic-print bomber jackets and body-con dresses in wetsuit fabrics, while streetwear-influenced designer Claude Maus served up tops in black leather zipped at the back, asymmetric dresses and skinny jeans.

Sass & Bide used black to create a gothic princess theme, with cut-out panelling and criss-cross lace-ups on long gowns. Yeojin Bae opted for refined glamour, teaming black pleated silk skirts with vivid orange tops, and chic black cocktail dresses adorned with origami rosettes.

However, the week was not devoid of colour, with Akira presenting a rainbow of silk printed pieces in orange, pink, green and yellow and Jayson Brunsdon introducing decadent tones of oyster, salmon pink and deep gold on slim-fit silk dresses and separates. Josh Goot played with dip-dyed purple sport-luxe pieces, while Arabella Ramsay went country chic, with red tartan dresses, shirts and gilets.

The most effective antidote to the darkness came from Kate Sylvester, who presented a ballerina-inspired range of pale pink wool dresses, scallop-tiered chiffon, stretchy white leggings and leotard-style bodices. A fluffy tutu suggested true defiance against the credit crunch.

Among the UK visitors was Yasmin Sewell, creative consultant at London department store Liberty. She said: “The designs are aimed at people in their 20s and 30s, and are affordable and good quality.”

The purpose of the annual Melbourne Fashion Festival is to stimulate consumer spend, with tickets available to the public, and the pieces delivered directly into stores.

Juliet Warkentin, content director at trends analysis website WGSN, said: “The consumer focus of the event is unique. Other countries could learn a lot from it.”

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