You established Brisbane’s own Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival (MBFF), in 2006. In that time it has grown to be a signature event for our state’s fashion scene. Can you tell us about the festival’s background, why you started it, and how you see it contributing to the story of Queensland fashion?
I started the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival to give local designers and retailers a legitimate platform to showcase their collections and reach an audience within their own home state. So many designers and creatives in general feel like they have to look interstate, to the ‘big cities’ like Sydney and Melbourne, for recognition in their field. There is so much fashion talent here in Queensland and it’s so important to keep jobs here and to keep the industry flourishing. By providing our designers and retailers with a great stage to show their collections, connect directly with the consumers, and put themselves out there before influential national media, I feel that the Fashion Festival is crucial to the story of Queensland fashion, because it gives the story a setting and helps to actually keep fashion in Queensland.
In your role, have you encountered many pre-conceived ideas about what Queensland fashion is, particularly from other parts of the country, or internationally?
When people think of Queensland, key words such as ‘beach’ and ‘outdoors’ come up a lot—which is a huge part of our culture— but I think people are surprised when they realise there are many Queensland-based designers who can do high-end fashion, couture and fashion-forward style, and they do it very well. Of course, many of those preconceptions about Queensland’s laid back lifestyle can be seen in our designers’ unique, colourful take on trends and styles, and always with a sense of carefreeness.
Tell us how you came to be interested in fashion…
I started working in the fashion industry some 20+ years ago when I become Marketing Manager for Cotton Australia. Back then the industry was in for some less than favourable media coverage with its use of pesticides and water usage. It quickly became evident that in order to gain a level of balance in this debate (both in the regional areas and cities), we had to promote the positive benefits from wearing cotton against the skin. Eight years on, I created a world-first agricultural concept store that featured high quality Australian cotton products, interactive computer games and an education facility as a showcase for the industry in the lead-up and during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. This, coupled with the staging of high-profile fashion events around Australia, led to cotton becoming the fibre of choice, and it outshone all other fibres (natural and man-made) at that time. Today, my appreciation for fashion remains high, with a strong appreciation for those working within the industry at all levels— no matter if you are a primary producer, pattern-maker, cutter, machinist, fashion designer or professional retailer— it’s a highly competitive and challenging industry and one that requires ongoing support and recognition, particularly at a time when new threats emerge that have the potential to challenge the local fashion/retail industry.
Where do you look for inspiration on matters of style?
Inspiration comes from many places, be it the international catwalks, fashion magazines or what’s happening locally. Each year when we are in the very early stages of planning the Fashion Festival, I’m looking for inspiration for the year’s Icon Shot. This hero image sets up what the year is about, what we want to say about the Festival and the current mood; I take inspiration for this from a range of areas, from the new collections and ‘it’ models, to vintage style and classic beauties.
What is your most treasured dress-related object or memory?
Wow, this requires some real thought! More than likely it was the time I first donned my military uniform some 28 years ago; a proud moment indeed. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, but more recently I have to say it would be my collection of bespoke suits, Gucci shoes and my watch collection.
Give us three words, people or places you associate with Queensland fashion…
Vibrant, individual, unexpected
Is there such a thing as a distinct Queensland style?
I think that certain sense of carefreeness, colour, and a slightly more casual (but stylish!) take on trends makes Queensland style distinctive. There is no one “look”, but I feel there is always a little extra brightness and a more relaxed approach. You don’t have to wear head-to-toe designer threads or wear black in winter. The sky, the sunshine, the incredible lifestyle that we have in Queensland… you can’t help but be influenced by this.
Published in Issue 6, on November 5, 2013.