For a long time Australian fashion has been known only for its swimwear, beach wear, resort wear, flip flops, shorts, jeans, casual tees and Ugg boots. Now, with the world made smaller via the internet, some Australian designers are beginning to branch out into areas that are more fashion, than retail. In fact, some of the more interesting Australian brands have been around for decades … You just didn’t know about them.
Here are three of my current favourite Australian fashion brands …
Et Al is a Melbourne brand that has been around since 1987 when it was founded by Christine and Les Doughty, who still own and run it. This is one of my personal favourite Australian independent labels; it’s very Japanese-art-gallery-worker crossed with 90s goth and bits of Vivienne Westwood.
This is a brand that is strongly influenced by the Japanese designers of the 80s – think relaxed tailoring, lots of black, few patterns, multi-use garments and gender neutral designs. The current brand designer is Anthony Capon who won Project Runway Australia season two.
Et Al is known for its quality of fabrics and finishings; there is a type of timelessness to the designs that make the pieces trans-seasonal. Et Al also supports other young and emerging Australian designers via its accessories stocks that feature artistic jewellery, as well as shoes and hats. The brand offers womenswear and menswear, but many of the styles are unisex. The use of muted colours and some prints adds depth to its more basic black core collection.
The brand produces limited runs of only 8 to 24 pieces of each style, and 70% of their garments are made in Australia. It is also size inclusive running from Australian size 8 to 18. Et Al is even age inclusive, featuring models of all ages in its social media and campaigns.
Another one of my favourite Australian fashion brands, Alpha60 is Melbourne born and bred, founded in 2005 by brother and sister duo Alex and Georgie Cleary. The brand’s name comes from the sci-fi classic movie Alphaville by Jean-Luc Godard.
Alpha60 is another brand where you can clearly see the influence of the Japanese designers of the 1980s.
While there is not so much black, there are lots of cocoon shapes, volume, asymmetric cuts, simple patterns, little glitter or gloss, natural fabrics and size inclusivity ie. nothing’s too tight or too structured.
Alpha60 is a brand that sticks to small production runs, using local sewers, and although it has around 10 boutiques in Australia and New Zealand, is still affordably priced in the lower contemporary range. I’ve bought a fair few pieces.
Chris Ran Lin
This menswear brand is an interesting mix of JW Anderson menswear with touches of Off White and Korean brand Junn J. Based in Melbourne, this brand is probably the most experimental of the local menswear brands. Lin is inspired by “architecture, structure, and texture” which can be seen in the cuts, volume and use of wool fabrics.
Lin is also known for his quality, but still interesting, knitwear. The use of various techniques to create lacey sweaters or bodycon tops, gives the brand the JW Anderson feel. Recent collections have shown a brighter and sharper use of colour, particularly the Uniform collection; note the ‘logo’ and use of red. It rather reminds one of something, does it not?
Although primarily a menswear brand, Lin has recently branched out to create a few womenswear pieces, and items that are distinctly non-gendered as well.
These appear to be more like luxe basics with a more elevated feel, rather than Lin’s more artistic runway garments. The newer items look to be more wearable for a wider range of body types as well. A good move in these uncertain times.
For more on Australian fashion, read Thoughtful, wearable clothes for every body by Jude Ng, and Small but mighty: 6 emerging sustainable Australian fashion brands