Australian Fashion Week is our island home’s annual glamour fest, where our major cities go off with outrageous eyeliner looks and a lot of fast-paced strutting. As the lifestyle writer at Time Out Sydney (who also happens to be a serious fashion show novice), I get dispatched to all kinds of fresh events and happenings – but when I was asked to head down to my first-ever runway show, it was the only time I’d been sent to an alternate universe.
Unfortunately, I came to work in the morning wearing a slightly dusty velvet jacket/cloak that I picked up for seven Romanian Leu in a Soviet-era thrift shop in the Transylvanian city of Sibu in central Romania. As much as I usually enjoy looking like a general from 1987, I wasn’t really, as they say, *feeling myself* for a quick jaunt to what is arguably Sydney’s most glam event of the year. Life can be really hard.
As someone whose only exposure to the world of farrrrshion has been through watching Anne Hathaway get demolished over the colour ‘cerulean’ by a frighteningly beautiful Meryl Streep, the thought of actually sitting beside a runway in real life felt a wee bit scary. Before rocking up at Carriageworks, all I could think of was that I was about to spend my Tuesday afternoon in a giant room filled with exactly 456 Miranda Priestlys, all chanting in unison while staring me down - “Florals. For spring. Groundbreaking”, over and over again until I had no choice but to sprint to Redfern station while scream-weeping.
When I was asked to head down to my first-ever runway show, it was the only time I’d been sent to an alternate universe
Walking down towards Carriageworks, it felt as though one had been transported into a strange new dimension, an alien planet, the metaverse – call it whatever you like, but it wasn’t the real world. Influencers with perfectly coiffed and glossy hair bounded weightlessly down the rusting train tracks, seemingly glowing from the inside-out. People milled around out front in fluro yellow suits that fit snugly around their heads, others strode straight ahead with aloof glares on their faces, their magenta and teal and monochromatic robes all flowing out behind them like enchanted polyester-blend wings.
It was magical, but also – a little terrifying.
I went to the St. Agni show, an Aussie brand that’s all about minimalism, clean lines, and strong, androgynous silhouettes. Inside, everything was white and lit up with an innate moon-like glow. The fashionistas were well-heeled, to say the least. While many of them were wearing chunky leather boots reminiscent of a princeling from Dune, a lot of them were also dressed in a kind of elegant finery that made me think of delicate unicorn hoofs and the Palace of Versailles, circa 1777. You know – like, really classy.
The show was simple and artfully undone, with the models resplendent in sheer slip dresses, structured blazers with intentional gaps showing off their naked backs, and the occasional shimmering halter-bra top concoction. The beats were popping, everyone looked impeccable, and it was clear that hundreds of hours of time, effort and cash had gone into making this moment happen – but I was a bit surprised at how the entire shebang wrapped up in what felt like under ten minutes.
It was short, but also very glam.
However, despite all the undeniable glitzy beauty, I was slightly taken aback by the intense skinniness of some of the show’s runway models.
I know, I know. It’s a tale as old as time and consumerism itself, but to see people with such alarmingly svelte frames being singularly idolised, en masse, in such a glossy public arena felt a bit unsettling. I mean, it’s 2022 folks -– and maybe I’m just another ignorant millennial, but I thought that signified that the toxic skeletal vortex of the noughties was over and we no longer had to deny ourselves complex carbohydrates in order to be valued as people, or wear cute clothes that make us feel snazzy.
This show kind of made me think otherwise.
To be clear, human bodies come in many different forms that are all valid and worthy of celebrating, and it should be noted that the show did include a smattering of people of colour and a few diverse body types. This was wonderful to see, but it was indisputable that some of the people walking seemed to embody a fashion stereotype that has persisted as the gold standard for so long that we have come to see it as the only one that exists.
There is nothing wrong with being thin, but there is something wrong with only showcasing people that are, with it neglecting to represent the vast array of people and experiences that make up our society, as well as, to be frank, the consumer market.
There is, of course, the argument that none of us get to comment on anyone else’s bodies, and this is something that I am absolutely on board for. After all, these people are just doing what they do for a living, and to blame and shame them for the way they look is absolutely not my intention. The issue here is not with the individuals themselves, but rather with the superstructure of power, money and privilege that forces them into these painful corners – a force whose influence is so immense that despite all the waves of positive change (of which there are definitely many), there remains an insidious core that resolutely refuses to be shaken.
There is nothing wrong with being thin, but there is something wrong with only showcasing people that are
Despite this, Australian Fashion Week made some clear strides this year to undertake more diverse inclusions – as seen in their groundbreaking Adaptive Fashion Show by JAM the label and Christina Stephens, and the spotlighting of the Indigenous Fashion Project, as well as a greater emphasis on sustainability across the board.
And yet, it remains evident that the fashion industry, as well as society as a whole, still has a way to go until we hit that utopian sweet spot.
At the end of my day at Fashion Week, I got a free goodie bag that contained (amongst other fun things) a piece of shiny black material, a lipstick a few shades too pale for my Middle Eastern lips, and a luxe jar full of powdered collagen. I left Carriageworks with a spring in my step, stoked at having gotten the opportunity to bear witness to such an intriguing universe – but also heavy with post-apocalyptic thoughts of pricey narcissism, redundant visions of beauty, and rampant overproduction, with none of these things being all that cute.
As always, whenever we get too close to the magnetic Mordor eye of 21st-century pop culture, nobody will ever be able to give us all the answers.
I just know one thing for sure, and that is I will probably never drink powdered collagen.
Everyone has a line.