7 Australian Fashion Designers You Need to Know About

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Picnic at Hanging Rock
A shot from 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' – an Australian film that has had huge influence on fashion design | Photo: Courtesy of Picnic Productions

In an exposé regarding the top emerging fashion epicenters of the world, Savoir Flair touched lightly on the conditions that are giving rise to powerful fashion industries in five countries. The continuation of this series has concentrated on South Africa, Brazil, and India, and this 2016 Australian Fashion Week, we are discussing the factors and fashions that are putting the Land Down Under on the map.

Australia’s desert landscapes, snow-capped mountains, and lush tropical forests paint a picture of one of the most biogeographically diverse destinations on the planet. Because of the country’s strong connections to nature, its fashion movement bears the aura of refined, romantic hippie style. Its fashionable elite always look prepared for a seaside adventure, a weekend at a music festival, or a desert hike. Outsiders are drawn to the country’s strong fashion aesthetic, and initiatives conducted via the Australian government, Australian Fashion Council, and Australian Fashion Chamber have helped further the country’s development of its sartorial identity beyond its borders. Additionally, Sydney Fashion Week and Melbourne Fashion Week have helped launch the careers of many emerging designers from the region, like Megan Park and Rachel Gilbert.

Other factors that are aiding in Australia’s rise in the fashion design sector include celebrity patronage. When Sarah Jessica Parker launched her shoe collection, her first collaboration was with Australian designers Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin of Tome. Beyoncé is often spotted on social media in designs by Camilla, Miley Cyrus loves Discount Universe’s psychedelic aesthetic so much that she copied it (to much controversy), Lady Gaga favors Melbourne designer Nixi Killick for tour costuming, and you can’t scroll through Instagram without seeing celebrities, fashion bloggers, editors, and socialites wearing Ellery by the dozens. By now, some of these brands have transcended regional labeling; for instance, Tome now shows at New York Fashion Week and Ellery shows at Paris Fashion Week.

Read on to discover seven designers who are making a significant impact on Australia’s fashion scene and beyond.

Dion Lee

Dion Lee FW16
Photo: Courtesy of Dion Lee

In his early 20s, Dion Lee was such a promising fashion designer that he secured the win for the International Woolmark Prize, the LMFF Designer Award, and the Qantas Spirit of Youth Award in Fashion Design. At the age of 30, Lee is now considered to be one of Australia’s foremost designers, having transcended regional boundaries to become a globally recognized name. Purity of lines and the modern spirit of his work have helped carve Lee’s reputation as one of the country’s most forward-thinking visionaries.

Manning Cartell

Manning Cartel FW16
Photo: Courtesy of Manning Cartell

Three sisters – Cheryl, Vanessa, and Gabrielle Manning – shared a dream to create a fashion label that not only supported sustainability in design, but also celebrated the rich heritage of Australia by way of hand-crafted textiles. Their label, Manning Cartell, launched in 2005, and to this day it continues to showcase vibrant prints, eye-catching graphic elements, and beautiful, feminine silhouettes. Manning Cartell is an ideal label to turn to if you’re in need of a truly unique, modern cocktail look, but it also has plenty of artistically appointed classics, like its ‘Studio Time’ shirt, to help round out your wardrobe.


Photo: Courtesy of Zimmermann

Zimmermann was founded by sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann in 1991, but it wasn’t until five year later, when Zimmermann first showed at Australian Fashion Week, that the label really started to take off. Although it launched with ready-to-wear selections only, Zimmermann eventually expanded to include swimwear – which is now one of its biggest draws. Since its inception, Zimmermann has existed to bring an Australian fashion story to the rest of the world, and the sisters have more than succeeded. As The Sydney Herald once quipped, “If Sydney was personified, she’d be bronzed, brazen, and wearing a Zimmermann bikini, so synonymous has the sunny label become with Australian style.”

Hunter the Label

Hunter the Label FW16
Photo: Courtesy of Hunter the Label

Unlike some of its counterparts on this list, Hunter the Label still flies relatively under the radar. The independent Canberra-based fashion label was launched by Sara Wurcker in 2012 but quickly gained international recognition due to its savvy use of social media. Her wearable, breezy collections have a bohemian quality to them, but they are finished with minimal decor. All the pieces are available in limited quantities and sold at mid-range price points. This means looks tend to sell out on the website rather quickly, so it’s best to pay attention to new releases in order to get your hands on the brand’s dreamy tops, chic skirts, and elegant bottoms.


Ellery FW16
Photo: Courtesy of Ellery

If you’ve spotted an elegantly flared sleeve or trouser on an Insta-celebrity (or normal celebrity for that matter), chances are you’re looking at an Ellery design. Kym Ellery’s elegant collections have taken the fashion world by storm and helped ignite a 1970s style revival as well. Ellery launched her label in 2007 after a four-year stint in publishing and quickly established her eponymous brand as one of Australia’s best. It’s now a globally recognized name, is stocked worldwide, and shows at Paris Fashion Week.


Aje FW16
Photo: Courtesy of Aje

Aje was launched in 2007 as the brainchild of two best friends: Edwina Robinson and Adrian Norris. The two combined their obsession with art, fashion, and luxury fabrications into one of Australia’s most sought-after brands. Celebrity patrons include Madonna, Kate Moss, and Rachel Zoe, but its hand-embellished, dazzling designs tend to look good on just about everybody. Since the launch of Aje, the label has won multiple awards – including the Chambord Shine Designers of the Year in 2009.

Romance Was Born

Romance was Born
Photo: Courtesy of Romance Was Born

Romance Was Born was birthed into the world in 2005 by Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales. Their goal was to create a place where art and fashion could live together, a fact that is achieved by the brand’s collaboration with multiple artists. Their latest collection, ‘Mysteria Wysteria’, was made in collaboration with Jess Johnson, whose pen and paper works are rendered in hypnotic patterns that draw the eye in. In the past, they have also worked with Disney, Marvel, The Syndey Theatre Company, May Gibbs, Linda Jackson, and many others, and their fans include the likes of Cate Blanchett, Nicki Minaj, and Grimes. The vibrant, creative collections of Romance Was Born are crafted for the woman who wants to put her artistic sensibilities front and center.

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