Review: Fashion Talk 3, Shopping with the Future Generation at VAMFF

12 March 2018

This year, VAMFF covered a variety of topics through small seminar sessions, bringing in some of Melbourne’s best and brightest, to discuss the challenges that face the fashion community. Saturday’s sold-out session on the movement from brick and mortar structures to virtual shopping feels particular relevant, as AI starts to loom over us, and we are forced to consider different ways to adapt to a rapidly developing online environment.

However, what was particularly striking about the discussion—which covered how retailers now have to combine various other spheres, such as hospitality, in order to provide customers with a more holistic experience—was the gender disparity on display. Every one of the four leaders in their field, all of which had a strong foundation in women’s fashion, with brands such as Kookai, Mimco, Sass & Bide, the eponymous Sener Besim, who also helmed Scanlan and Theodore: were all men. However, the one leading the panel in discussion, and the one who decides whose boutique lands a spot in many of the coveted AMP shopping centres, was a woman.

This begs the age-old question: can men really accurately create a completely expressive space for women through fashion? It was acknowledged numerous times, the irony of celebrating men in women’s fashion, during the week of International Women’s Day – and we can look back and see some of the world’s best interpreters of women’s dressing have been men: Versace, Gucci, and more recently, Olivier Rousteing of Balmain.

Looking at the figures, the men of the panel have proven their mettle in their understanding of what women want to be choosing to wear: Rob Cromb, the Managing Director of Kookai, noted that his success stems from understanding exactly who the brand is, and proving that. The phrase ‘DNA’ was used repeatedly, as the panel definitively agreed that the way forward for fashion, in a climate of Click and Collect, of completely online integration, and of the rise of Gen Z and the Alpha generation, was to be completely convinced of your identity.

How do we know who we are, when the world around us is morphing into something that we don’t entirely understand? The men of the panel looked at logical and rational ways of solving this—keep the customer in mind, keep the product solid, understand your market and the differences between domestic and international consumers. However, while the discussion was moderated by a woman, it would’ve been more balanced and informative to have a woman in the mix—especially when ALPHA60 is a collaboration between Alex Cleary and his sister, Georgie, who was also in the room. It is not enough to be in the room—now is the time to have a seat at the table.


The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival is on throughout March.

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