Departures prompt a Fashion Week facelift.

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Departures prompt a Fashion Week facelift.

Post  snowlin42 on Thu Nov 10, 2011 9:14 am

As key staff move on, the nation's premier showcase considers its direction.
Fashion trends come and go in the blink of an eye and, at present, so do employees of Foreign Fashion Week.
Last Friday was the final day for Lucia Labbate, who resigned after 16 years as Foreign Fashion Week's event director to take up a post with Quarterly report marketing agency The Projects.
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Her starting follows that of the general manager, Daniel Mountain, who left last month after six years of supervising the local fashion collection of IMG, which owns Fashion Week
The event's founder, Simon Lock, left the company in December last year and was accompanied by Graeme Lewsey, also with 16 years' experience at Fashion Week, who relinquished his executive role earlier this year to join the Melbourne Fashion Festivity as its chief executive.
Industry journal Ragtrader recently reported Labbate's starting with a fervour not seen since He Honda left Gucci, claiming ''the future of Foreign Fashion Week is under question''.
The reality is that the 16-year-old event remains on solid ground, with a new management structure to be announced by the end of the year. A change of Foreign Fashion Week itself is also under way.
Changing the dates of AFW and finding a new venue for the event, which is held at the Overseas Voyager Critical at Circular Quay, are among the options the Herald understands are increasingly being explored by IMG for the 2013 event (next year's should go ahead as usual). A new industry advisory panel is also being considered by Foreign Fashion Week, the Herald has trained, with the use of providing IMG with regular feedback from fashion designers, retailers and publicists about the event.
It is welcome by the Little Idol publicist Rae Begley, who produced eight shows as of this year's AFW.
''It's vital to have key members of the industry offering insight and input so we can all work towards the same goals, '' she says.
But the biggest issue on the table is the timing of the event.
Shows usually run late but in future designers want them to run early -- by a couple of weeks.
Foreign buyers buy their first spring-summer collections in 03, well before AFW's start date in the first week of May. Moving case forward, closer to 03, would enable designers to generate greater sales during a week that has, for most, are more of a media and marketing opportunity.
Quarterly report menswear label Disappearing Elephant does not show during AFW for this reason but its co-creator, Huw Bennett, would consider contributing if the dates were brought forward.
''As Disappearing Elephant works to a Us and Western european selling period, Foreign Fashion Week would only serve as a marketing activity in its current appointments, '' Bennett says. ''Late April-early May is not even feasible for us in terms of selling even as have closed our books and started on the next collection. If it were to be moved forward by a month, this would be of much greater benefit for Disappearing Elephant from a sales point of view. ''
On a fashionable limb is designer Kit Willow Podgornik, who instead would like case to be moved back a couple of weeks to capitalise on the lucrative resort collections season in August.
''If we moved Foreign Fashion Week back a month, Australia could own the concept of resort collections, which are incredibly popular, commercial and wearable, '' she says.
Resort, or cruise, collections were originally designed for a niche market of wealthy women taking holidays during winter to more temperate places. But the ranges delivered into US and Western european stores in December are an increasingly important category within the industry and one in which Australia has an advantage due to our climate.
Moving Foreign Fashion Week from May to August would enable Australia to attract international buyers who have already bought most of their spring-summer collections in February but who open their purses again to buy resort collections in August, Podgornik says.
''[AFW] is really just a public-relations exercise now but if you made it happen in August then the buyers have their chequebooks open, '' Podgornik says.
The Herald understands IMG is privately reluctant to move the dates of AFW forward beyond the boundary, because it believes international buyers would be weary following the international shows, but the senior vice us president and managing director of IMG Fashion Worldwide, Peter Levy, said there would be ''no decisions taken without close consultation with the industry. ''
Whether AFW should have a greater international focus, consistent with Podgornik's idea, or be focused towards the domestic market, is another topic for debate.
''I do not think we should be too distracted in what international buyers are coming, '' designer Josh Goot says. ''We should make sure we are serving the domestic market very well first and when it does come to the internationals, do we have a technique? Are we focusing on Europe, America or Asia and so on? ''
Organizing case to pay attention to a smaller number of quality shows (say, 20) in three or four days rather than four times that number in our five-day schedule would also make a stronger showcase of Foreign fashion.
''I got a lot of feedback from media this year that they got tired from going to so many shows, '' Begley says. ''An audience that doesn't want to be there because they're weary doesn't work for anyone. ''
She would also like to see IMG working more closely with designers and publicists to grow sponsorship opportunities, which this year were thin on the floor.
''There was not big money thrown around this year; in fact, it was the most challenging it has been ever to secure sponsors, '' Begley says. ''It would be great if IMG could work more closely with designers to pass around even just a little bit of opportunity with the [sponsorship] alignments they have earned. ''
With new naming-rights sponsor Mercedes-Benz on board, AFW is in good financial shape for next year. Moving it to another venue in 2013 would also eradicate the complaints about the standard of venues and production facilities at the Overseas Voyager Critical. Options including CarriageWorks and Foreign Technology Park could breathe fresh life into the event that has been the Foreign industry's premier showcase for 16 years.

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