Thursday 14 April 2016

The Australian Connection: Fashion Designers in Paris

In Paris, Australian business director Luka Maich with fashion designer Lui Hon. Their label's runway show was the second time they have presented a new collection in the French capital. Cover picture of Kym Ellery's Paris show, designer portraits and fashion photographs all by Elli Ioannou
Paris draws designers from all over the world for its ready-to-wear and haute couture fashion weeks. Our special correspondent Elli Ioannou writes that if Australian designers want to show their work on an international stage Paris is the best place to be

The poetry of fashion at Lui Hon  
AUSTRALIAN fashion designers in Paris during this season's autumn/winter 2016 fashion week included Lui Hon, Kym Ellery, Akira Isogawa and jeweller Will Hanigan. Showing in Paris for a second time, designer Lui Hon and business partner Luka Maich both agree it is important to be in the French capital. They say Europe is often more reflective of the label's aesthetic than Australia. For Lui Hon, the poetry of fashion is a key element inspiring his work. Hon's current collection's theme is inspired by water, a metaphor for the fluid and adaptable designs that are integral to his oeuvre. Many of the key pieces can be worn in different of ways: reversed, worn upside down and even back to front.
Lui Hon's fluid & adaptable design
Some pieces have inbuilt ties which enable the wearer to style and wear the same garment differently each time. Founded in Melbourne seven years ago with Luka Maich, the brand manufactures its garments locally. Lui Hon, an RMIT design graduate, got his big break creatively after being a finalist on the television series Project Runway. He says working on designs for the show was a catalyst for discovering his own design ethos which continues to sustain his approach today. Asked about their unique symbiotic relationship working together as designer and business director, Luka Maich says: “We are open and transparent about everything that happens in the both the business and creative areas. Of course Lui is the designer, but each step is overseen by both of us. We are hands on with all aspects of the label, we want to make it work." How did they meet? “Where many great relationships begin,” says Maich. “At a party!”

Akira Isogawa shows his new collection in Paris
Akira Isogawa is one of Australia’s most well-established fashion designers, with great success not only locally but also in Paris. Isogawa has been coming to France since 1998, exhibiting as well as selling his clothing by liaising directly with his buyers. The designer's preference to not show via a traditional runway has meant he can sustain and control his own vision, and continue to produce the high level of quality he aimed for since the brand’s inception. The designer describes his autumn/winter 2016 collection as being about beautifying our world with a suggestion of ancient Japan. The garments have an allure created by layers, subtle details, patch-working, and contrasting elements of dark and light.

Isogawa's rich colour & drapery
Isogawa likes to use traditional Japanese designs and techniques using natural fabrics to create these stratified, intricate ensembles. He devotes a lot of time to textile design, using techniques such as dying, folding, embroidery, printing and hand painting. His clothes use rich colour but have draped, androgynous shapes. The designer originally moved to Australia from Japan to study fashion at the Sydney Institute of Technology. He opened his boutique in Sydney's Woollahra in 1993 and was showing during Australian Fashion Week three years later before taking his collections to international buyers in Paris. The designer has collaborated on dance productions, won awards and been the subject of exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Today, Isogawa has boutiques in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Will Hanigan & Iskra Galic in Paris
Will Hanigan describes himself as a Yawuru man, a designer and fifth generation pearl diver from Broome. Hanigan began his design journey at nineteen with a six month stint in Japan in the pearl trade. One of his first designs was a piece of crocodile leather, originally with teeth adorning it, that Hanigan replaced by pearls. Initially, diving himself  the designer also bought from his father, a major international wholesaler of pearls. Asked about how his Aboriginal identity influences his work today, Hanigan says: “It’s important to understand there is spirituality involved in being Aboriginal, understanding the properties of the stones and metals from this perspective is integral for me and akin to the Indian Ayurveda philosophy. I see the crocodile as one of my totems and often the shapes of my earring pendants are tiny shells I find when I’m on the beach in Broome where I grew up.” Talking about his dream for his designs and brand, he describes how he would like to bring pearls into haute couture fashion. “I'd like to bridge the gap between what is high fashion and fine quality jewellery, with an aesthetic that is fashionable and desirable. No one is really doing that using South Sea pearls.” Today, Will Hanigan is based in New York, with his partner Iskra Galic (pictured) and would like to expand his brand in Europe.

Ellery's '70s inspired runway show in Paris
Kym Ellery is only the second Australia-based designer (after Collette Dinnigan) to be invited by France's Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode to show her collection during the official Paris Fashion Week schedule. This season her runway show at the uber contemporary Palais des Tokyo, presented metallic gold and bronze dresses, dress shirts, leather and velevet frocks, fur coats and tweed ankle length coats tied with long straps. Diaphanous, white shirt dresses with billowing Laura Ashley styled sleeves and leather ankle boots, combined a breezy Australian style with a soignee Parisian silhouette that seemed to capture the essence of Antipodean success in the French capital. Raised in Perth, Kym Ellery first created her brand Ellery in Sydney in 2007. Today, she works with mills in Switzerland and Italy to develop innovative new textiles while keeping the production of the clothes in Sydney. Initially, she did a university fashion design and production degree, followed by a summer course at London’s Central St Martins plus four years working at Australian RUSSH magazine, before she got her break via a Vogue shoot.

Subscribe to support our independent and original journalism, photography, artwork and film.