Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia is one of the most glamorous events on the calendar. Here, beauty editor Eleanor Pendleton reveals what it’s really like to sit front row at some of the hottest runway shows.
Here’s a piece of advice: don’t move house the day before Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia. Even if, like me, you are organised and pack a box clearly marked ‘FASHION WEEK’, you will still lose things like those Jimmy Choo shoes you that you need (not want) to wear and your Celine bag that no, dear boyfriend, you cannot replace with any ol’ tote.
Somehow though, throughout all the packing tape and bubble wrap, I manage to pull myself together and get myself to the first show of the week: Carla Zampatti. And, what a goodie it is. Setting a high precedent for fashion’s rising stars, the collection of super sexy black cocktail dresses and bridal-esque frocks featuring pops of electric blue, yellow and orange is the perfect way to start fashion week.
Alex Perry’s backstage call time kicks off at 8am (which, in fashion week land, is a sleep-in). At Sydney’s heritage Carriageworks – the official location for MBFWA – I’m met backstage by Nigel Stanislaus, Maybelline New York Makeup Director and Sophie Roberts, ghd Hair Director who are leading the creative teams at Perry’s show. What comes next (three and a half hours later!) is perfectly imperfect hair and dewy healthy skin. Oh, and a Victoria’s Secret supermodel – Alessandra Ambrosio – who opens and closes Alex Perry’s über glamorous show.
A mad dash for the car park and I’m soon driving to Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach. Kym Ellery is preparing Bondi Icebergs for her highly anticipated S/S 14 show. Popping backstage, I catch up with ghd Hair Director Alan White while he works on a model creating androdgynous-looking mowhawks and ponytails. Once the show begins – and Hollywood actor Gerard Butler takes his front row seat – not even the downpour of torrential rain can dampen the fashion and beauty media’s spirits. Ellery’s collection of evening wear is modern and consists of boxy corsetry, signature bell-selves and the occasional sharp smoking suit; my idea of fashion perfection.
Next, a fashion stampede takes place trying to exit Bondi Icebergs. Things get intense. I thank myself for driving and not getting a taxi.
Back on site, tribal eye liner is being painted onto models’ faces and fierce reverse braids are being coiffed at Desert Designs. Call times often mean beauty editors miss watching shows altogether because of time clashes so I’m forced to sit this one out.
To end the first full day of MBFWA, I pop backstage to Bec & Bridge where Alan White has returned from Ellery. This time around, he’s creating beautiful lived-in blow-dries. “This season, the Bec & Bridge woman has grown up. She’s a nomad, a traveller. She has expensive taste and a sense of adventure,” White tells me personally. After watching the show, I make a note of what dresses, pants and top I’ll be buying next season. Oh, and how I’ll be wearing my hair tomorrow.
By 8pm, I’m home and stay up late writing articles until 1am.
The schedule is jam-packed today and the thought of seeing Michael Lo Sordo, We Are Handsome, Toni Maticevski and Christopher Esber excite me.
I see Stanislaus backstage working his makeup magic at Michael Lo Sordo and I’m starting to notice a pattern going on: a lot of fashion designers are requesting no foundation on models. “This season, foundation is a vulgar word,” Stanislaus tells me. I think he’s joking but after seeing the beauty looks at Carla Zampatti, Kahlo, Strateas Carlucci and then Michael Lo Sordo, it’s clear natural beauty is taking a more literal turn this season.
After Michael Lo Sordo’s collection of pastel suiting and to-die-for silk trenches, I get a ride to Paddington’s Reservoir Gardens with Ruby Rose for We Are Handsome. She makes off to play with an albino python (no, I’m not kidding!) while I check out what’s happening in hair and makeup. Finally! I’m welcomed by pops of vibrant colour! Splashes of yellow, purple and blue are everywhere and the vibe backstage is upbeat. After doing my interviews, there are a few hours of waiting around before I take my seat – that’s the part no one ever tells you if you’re a fashion week rookie. Ruby and I agree the We Are Handsome show – which featured models smiling in digital printed swimwear – is one of the highlights from the week. We call it “refreshing”. Plus, it looks like we’re in the Amazon jungle and the We Are Handsome crew provide lunch for hungry show-goers. Tick!
A short 15 minute cab ride back to Carriageworks and the models are in the chairs for Toni Maticevski. This is the show I’ve been the most excited about. Last year, Maticevski was given a standing ovation and this year he did not disappoint. A breathtaking collection of embellished skirts, cut-out dresses and cocoon-like coats have industry insiders calling it the show of the week. Models with dewy skin and slightly dishevelled blow-dries close the show wearing live orchids in their mouth – the key motif of the collection. We agree the collection is fashion as art at its finest.
To end the evening, Christopher Esber again reveals natural-looking skin to allow the spotlight to fall onto his nautical-inspired collection. And, to finish the day, Group Swim presents graphic printed swimwear and smouldering smoky eyes. I finally put myself to bed around midnight. I’m so exhausted I can’t feel my feet from wearing heels all day.
Surprisingly, I wake up feeling fresh. I don’t have to be backstage until 10am so I manage to spend the morning checking emails and meeting my other copy deadlines.
Once on site, I’m greeted by fresh flushed faces and slicked back hair at Suboo. Again, foundation is minimal and if required, a lightweight BB cream is used. Models must be relieved.
After Suboo, I head to Emma Mulholland. It’s intense backstage and the space is tight. Media are told to wait before they are allowed in – a common occurrence at fashion week. I check emails and upload photos to social media while I wait. Once given the all clear, I find models in pink and blue wigs and creamy pastel makeup tones. It’s fun, upbeat and a nostalgic nod to ’90s sitcoms Beverly Hills 90210 and Friends. After the Emma Mulholland show, the warehouse space is cleared and I managed to steal an hour to myself in the media centre where I can post content.
I decide to take a break and enjoy the Bianca Spender show (no backstage interviews necessary), which takes place in an old train bay. At the centre of the set is a life-size dilapidated cottage. The mood is eerie and the collection beautiful.
I hang around to catch the Swarovski show, which Victoria’s Secret Aussie supermodel Shanina Shaik walks. I’m home by 11pm and decide I’m too tired to write. Instead, I set my alarm for 5:30am so I can work early.
It’s the last official day of MBFWA and it kicks off with Alice McCall’s show. Known for kitsch designs, Alice McCall celebrates 10 years in Australian fashion so the media and buyers are excited this morning. And, she doesn’t disappoint: jumpsuits in mint green, lip-printed sets and sparkly pink shorts prove to be a highlight.
Up and coming young designers own the schedule today and the New Generation, The Innovators, Ixiah and Macgraw prove to be a hit. I decide to wrap up after midday and cap it off filing more stories wearing track pants. I also buy myself a block of chocolate.
As a NSW Government Fashion Ambassador for MBFWA this year, I spend the day with local designers, Alice McCall and Ginger & Smart. The Carousel contributors and notably down to earth model twins, Jordan and Zac Stenmark are there as well. We spend the day with international media including Tommy Ton and Susie Bubble taking in some of Sydney’s sights.
From commercial flair to fashion as art, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week has a been an exciting and simultaneously exhausting few days of fashion, beauty and the upmost creative inspiration showcased by designers, makeup artists and hair stylists. This MBFWA will be my eighth and if I’m perfectly honest, it just keeps on getting better.
Photography by HB Nam