An International Vision From Down Under
Sunglasses inspired by Ottoman culture and activewear made in fine Merino wool proved how integrated and international young designers are, all over the world.
The idea of inviting ten designers from “Down Under” to display their work as a centrepiece in the mighty pavilion of the Pitti Immagine menswear fair in Florence might seem a surf wave too far.
But drawing a crowd that included Matteo Renzi, former Prime Minister of Italy and former Mayor of Florence, as well as current Mayor Dario Nardella, proved how important geographical diversity is in the current fashion universe.
With strong support from the Woolmark Company and a close relationship with Italy for its wool fabrics, the display proved that young designers can climb speedily beyond their early comfort zone.
Add the power of the Internet and Australian creatives are selling worldwide after only a year in business.
One thing is sure: The exuberant sporty look, as seen on Bondi Beach and beyond, could not be more relevant in the gender-neutral fashion styles of today.
“We started our luxury resort-wear label in 2016,” says Richard Jarman, Creative Director of Commas. “We work with Italian mills that spin a super-fine Australian Merino wool for our summer-weight tops, which are then made in Australia.”
“The label has ended up being a European-Australian mix. It’s an extension of our own wardrobes, really, because we couldn’t find anything that we wanted. It’s an elevated resort look. Australia’s very casual, but we wanted something really European.”
“The name ‘Comma’ is a play on the comma in a sentence, when you pause to take your breath. Resort-wear is for when you’re pausing to catch your breath. It’s the ultimate luxury of having time to relax and time for privacy.”
Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning launched their women’s performance activewear brand a year ago.
“It has a street edge, and all the men were asking, ‘Where’s the menswear?’ So we thought we’d give it a go and have now designed a men’s range too.
“Our jacketing is quite detailed with a design eye to it, but we use performance fabric so it’s street appropriate and functional. We have Woolmark pieces, too. Merino wool is perfect for activewear because it’s temperature regulating and cools your body. It’s fantastic wearing a wool T-shirt to train because it absorbs perspiration.”
“We came to Italy on a sourcing trip and found ski jacketing in 100% wool lined with silicone. It’s waterproof, it’s windproof, it’s everything.”
“Since we started in 2016 we are now stocked in Net-a-Porter and Selfridges, as well as about 80 stockists back home in Australia. Our online store is probably the best showcase. It has everything!”
Raised in a suburban Australian beachside town, Lukas Vincent has brought Australia’s surf culture to the refined functional tailoring of Europe. ‘’It’s a luxury surf brand, so certainly you’ll see a lot of elements here in a surf shop but in a very elevated way, which I think is really interesting because not too many Australian brands reference surf in such a way. I’m sure the surfing world would not want anything to do with me!” he laughs. “They’re the antithesis of fashion.”
“All my fabrics come from Italy but I make everything in Australia. I use a lot of very luxurious fabrics as well as rubber and 100% cotton from a wonderful mill in Italy. The mill is so small they only do fabrics for one season! It’s all made on heritage looms from the early 1900s, so it’s beautiful. I’ve also just collaborated with a student in Finland who repurposes old sneakers and sews them back together.”
“This company is my new baby, so it’s a full-time job, seven days a week working on everything – even stockists – so I don’t have time to surf anymore. My sales agent is in Paris; it’s crazy but I don’t have one stockist in Australia! It’s almost like you can’t be of profit in your own town!”
“It’s a highly emotional, personal project for me. I left my job, risked everything,” says Sener Besim of his luxury eyewear business, which features hand-numbered frames in 24-carat gold, titanium and onyx crystal.
Born in Australia to Albanian and Turkish immigrant parents, Besim grew up feeling a minority. “As I got older I made peace with my background by designing eyewear using Ottoman architecture as a source of inspiration,” he says.
“That silhouette lends itself beautifully to the face. I did a trade fair and a few boutiques from Turkey came but were uncomfortable about the phrase ‘Ottoman’. I’m not meaning to be political; I’m focusing on 12th- and 13th-century architecture, which happens to be Ottoman and is probably lifted from the Byzantine era. It’s just so geometric.”
“I started my company just 18 months ago and already have good stockists like Dover Street Market and Colette. I didn’t want to jump on that merry-go-round of having to design something new every six months; eyewear is an afterthought for a lot of luxury brands and I wanted to pay it the highest form of respect.”
“As soon as you put on one of our shirts you feel like you’re on holiday,” says Toby Jones of Double Rainbouu, the men’s beachwear brand he founded with Mikey Nolan.
The duo worked for nearly 10 years together as Art and Creative Directors of Australian cult denim brand Ksubi and used their strengths in print, marketing and design to set up Double Rainbouu, with an online store selling their version of the Hawaiian shirt. “Within six weeks we had an order from Opening Ceremony and then from Barneys,” Nolan says. “We’ve sold our fifth season in America and are equally strong in Japan.”
“We feel that our label engages more intelligently with what’s happening in the world and yet maintains an Australian feel about it. In Australia the beach is part of everyday life. We have urban beaches, crappy suburban beaches, and paradise beaches and we celebrate all of them with a cheeky grin. We’re not selling an aspirational dream, and in that sense Double Rainbouu relates in a street way and works as well in the city as it does on the sand.”
“We’re a unisex brand and for every collection we design just ten pieces of black and white,” says Lucy Hinckfuss, who founded Ten Pieces with co-designer Maurice Terzini. The brand offers ‘mix & match’ wardrobe essentials, so “You can wear one piece or ten!”
‘’We want to do things that are simple and clean but a little bit modern and edgy,” Hinckfuss explains. “So our designs are a mixture of dressy and sporty and we definitely stand out. It’s nice to bring a bit of sophistication into casual wear.”
Terzini adds, “We want Ten Pieces to be a lifestyle brand rather than just fashion. We throw ten parties every year and work with ten different DJs, so there’s a whole other concept there.”
“We work with Woolmark yarns on some of our knit pieces – we used our original patterns and just translate them into wool,” Hinckfuss says. “The fabrics we work with are biodegradable and sustainable, which is really important for us and reflects our ethos. It’s important to carry some of that message through to everything we do.”
“Suss!” says Peter Strateas of Strateas Carlucci, holding up a jumper. “It’s an Aussie thing. Looking ‘a little bit sus’, or suspicious.” Alongside co-designer Mario-Luca Carlucci, the Italian-Australian design duo is known for being tongue in cheek. “It’s good to have a bit of a chuckle.”
“The last few seasons we’ve been playing with a new Australian cowboy character, mixing traditional tailoring and sportswear,” Carlucci explains. “We’re having fun with Australian colloquialisms and finding new ways of working with Merino wool – there’s a lot of innovation in Merino with sports fabrics. We tell Woolmark what we’re looking for and they connect us with mills in Italy and Japan. Our label has been fortunate to be part of the international Woolmark Prize twice – for men’s and women’s.”
Chris Ran Lin
“The concept for my menswear collection came from the word ‘noise’. I took the idea of sound and expressed it, like a lovely song, into my range by using unusual material in a harmonious or conflicting way,” says Chris Ran Lin. “For example, people don’t usually put leather or metal on wool knit garments, but I set gold metal rings into my jumpers. I also like using bold colour combinations with furry mohair or cashmere, for instance.”
After four years in business, Lin has now been nominated for the International Woolmark Prize for the Australia & New Zealand region. “It’s a great milestone for me. Melbourne became my home after I came from China to study at RMIT when I was 18. I grew up around textiles – my mother is a dressmaker, my grandmother is an expert in Chinese crafts, and my family owned a fabric store.”
Currently most of Lin’s work is private orders: “I create all my knitwear by myself. The majority of my clients are back home in China. Such a high percentage of people there are willing to try new things to be different from other people. They feel Australia is so far away from any other place that they can find something interesting and exciting for themselves. Yet, funnily enough, Australians think my designs are very European.”