On Fish and Ponds

February 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’ve been thinking about the future recently. Most importantly where I’d like to be etcetera.

Probably the imminent approach of the big two-five… Quarter life crisis here I come.

Everyone looks at foreign magazines, Dazed, Vogue Italia or Paris, i-D, Ponystep, Fantastic Man, AnOther, Purple, the list goes on. I’ve recently been embracing the online aspect of these publications (putting together a collection means a few sacrifices) which has definitely ended in a few random surfing sessions, looking at new stuff, and seeing what other people are doing.

I find it the Australian Fashion industry a little sad sometimes. Not to say that it is in anyway without talent, or some amazing people. Dion Lee, prodigal son of Sydney Fashion week, who Tim Blanks compared to Proenza Schouler and Marios Schwab, has always been a favourite (of mine and of the Australian Press).

Lee, and others of his calibre, prove that being isolated from the rest of the world on an island doesn’t need to be a negative impact on the creative community, and Australia has definitely produced some amazing artists and musicians. However the Australian fashion industry has always felt, to a degree, to be a little too reflective on whats going on overseas. Which seems to me to be a waste, I know for a fact that at least half of the students I graduated with have an amazing talent, and could produce amazing work.

the difference between Australia and cities like London, or Paris, or New York I suppose lies in the scale of our cities. Considerably smaller populations, with no immediate neighbours means a smaller market. And it doesn’t help that the local production industry has all but disappeared.

However where the larger cities succeed best, London especially, is in supporting emerging talent. There are some small initiatives starting in Australia, including the L’Oreal National Graduate Showcase, and other assorted competitions and platforms, however there is barely any funding available. When I attempted to see what was available, I could apply for a small business grant, or if I wasn’t ready to start a business, but wanted to begin a creative practice, there was a range of different grants available through the Australia council, the government body who administers funding to the creative arts. It was disappointing to find out though that these grants do not extend to design disciplines, but are rather more limited to theatre, Painting, sculpting, and film, the “creative” arts. When I contacted the Australia Council about the Art Start Grant, I was sent an email response that basically boiled down to you evan have the grant, but it has to be used to create a practice that will generate income. However it cannot be used to start a label.

Bit of a catch 22.

London has a wide range of different platforms for emerging talents. Theres the NEWGEN supported by Topshop and created by the British Fashion Council, which has a roll call including Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Matthew Williamson, Meadham Kirchoff, and Erdem. More recently it has launched new young stars such as Michael van der Ham, Mary Kantranzou, and JW Anderson.

The British Council also sponsors the NEWGEN MEN show during London Fashion Week, building on the past success of the MAN initiative run jointly with Fashion East, a non-for profit organisation established in 2000 to aid young designers. It is sponsored by Topshop’s male incarnation TOPMAN, as well as the London Development agency. Designers receive a bursary, free venue and complete catwalk show production, professional catwalk photographs and video. Designers are also given mentoring, guidance and in-house PR throughout the season from Lulu Kennedy and her team.

There is also more prestigious (though not necessarily better) bursaries and prizes available. One of the top being the BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund, a 200,00 Pound prize for a new designer to help them grow and expand their business. Other initiatives include Esthetica, an eco-friendly design and support hub, the BFC/Elle Talent Launch Pad, which helps new businesses to grow and build relationships with British retailers.

There are programs to support jewellery designers, Film/Fashion collaborations, the list is long and comprehensive as is the depth of support offered.

The mainland of Europe has similar programs, ANDAM, Hyeres, ITS, among the many on offer. And most of them are available to foreign designers, bringing the best talent to Europe.

So perhaps the lack of true talent succeeding in the local industry doesn’t mean it isn’t there, but rather there is no way for it to succeed here yet. I know that I will have to eventually leave Australia (something that will have to happen soon) and attempt to make a place for myself overseas. Not that this means I, or any of my peers are ungrateful for the few rare opportunities that are available to us. But neither should it be the responsibility of the industry to be the sole supporter of its emerging talent. The government seems to have the right idea where the creative arts are concerned, but maybe their designer counterparts could do with some of their largesse.

If Australia wants to bee seen as having a truly creative industry, look to the lead of cities like London, and Paris, where designers can work without the constraints of having to start out small, and allow their creative expression to have full reign. Therein lies the reason behind the decades of influence and reputation these cities have within the creative design industries.

I thought I’d finish with some favourites that have recently come out of these programs. Proof that with support great things can be accomplished.

Matthew Miller SS 2012



Marques ‘ Almeida SS2012



Shaun Samson SS 2012


Thomas Tait AW 2012

For information on the British Fashion Council (BFC) click here.


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§ One Response to On Fish and Ponds

  • Wil says:

    We have an award called the Queensland Overseas Foundation Scholarship. They’ll support you to go overseas and learn on the understanding that you will come back and contribute to the local industry. Basically, you have to promise you’ll come back.

    I think one of the major differences is the major media here. They are more interested in filling ad space and using photoshoots that their Northern Hemisphere versions reject. There is no desire to find the next great designer. Which is why the local industry seems so reflective of what’s going on overseas. While some may speak of the evils of Anna Wintour, she is more interested these days in finding new talent. Even Rick Owens admits he probably wouldn’t be where he was if it wasn’t for the support of Vogue.

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