In a refurbished warehouse gallery, Australia’s next generation of designers leave the crowd speechless.
“My skin is crawling. I’m just inspired,” one onlooker comments.
“Phenomenal. Nothing you have ever seen before,” another says.
Cameron Hill, Liandra Gaykamangu, Ruby Pedder and Xi Wu’s debut collections make up the Australian Fashion Week’s Next Gen runway.
Established in 1996, the program has launched the careers of top industry names including BEC + BRIDGE, CAMILLA AND MARC and Akira.
Gaykamangu’s swimwear brand Liandra Swim opened the show, fusing contemporary Aboriginal Australian culture with premium designer swimwear.
Launched in the summer of 2018, the brand’s signature prints are inspired by the designer’s lived experiences as a Yolngu woman from North-East Arnhem Land.
Asked how she felt about dipping into Australia’s well-known swimwear industry, Gaykamangu is honest.
“I actually was nervous,” she told AAP.
“But now I feel the most amount of relief I have felt in a very long time.
“To have an opportunity to be spotlighted and acknowledged as an up-and-coming designer to watch … that’s really important.”
Ruby Pedder followed with, what she describes, “casual couture”.
Her designs’ delicate art forms and silhouettes are inspired by rebellion and surrealism akin to the ‘riot grrrl’ movement.
“This is the first time I’ve ever seen my clothes move. I’ve never done a runway,” she told AAP.
Next was a story of two cultures meeting, where traditional and new design techniques intertwine in a way that resembles Xi Wu’s bicultural identity.
“This is so important to me because this is something that I started during uni and now I get to work with other designers,” she told AAP.
“To elevate is awesome. One step a time.”
Cameron Hill closed the show with self-described “reconceptualised grandma-esque lace knitwear”.
Intuition, emotion, nostalgia and curiosity drive her work through timeless silhouettes and rich textiles.
“I’m a big believer in ‘Whatever life gives to you, that’s what it’s meant to be’,” Hill told AAP.
“So hearing I was selected for Next Gen, I was like, ‘This is my calling’.”