AFW 2024: The Inside Scoop

AUSTRALIAN FASHION WEEK 2024: You heard it here first

FNZ Publisher Murray Bevan dives into what made AFW 2024 tick, including his many hits and very few misses.

I like my influencers like I like my Burrata

Before you figuratively jump down my throat, hear me out. I know this seems like an age-old story: how influencers have taken over fashion weeks, as well as the evolution of this narrative which says Influencers are dead.  But here’s my angle:  The influencers are the best entree of AFW and warm up the crowd for the main course inside. They’ve become a necessary addition to the event, and have actually earned their place to be there. Finally. 

Don’t get me wrong, like any menu there were a few influencers scattered around the place that weren’t my taste at all, and made me wonder ‘What are you doing here?’  But the majority added to a cultured, balanced, sometimes basic, sometimes spicy, sometimes a little adventurous menu of the fashion du jour.  

Like any little snack that you enjoy with the first glass of wine after you’ve sat down, the Influencer Entree at AFW 2024 made guests sit up and pay attention from the minute they cascaded elegantly down those famous stairs at Carriage Works.  The Viaduct Footbridge could never.  Australian influencers, models, media, photographers, stylists and buyers have found their niche and they know how to perform for the crowd.  

Home away from Home: The NZ-AFW Takeover

Last week’s event was the first time in a long time that I’d seen so many Kiwis at AFW.  Rory William Docherty was the only New Zealand designer who showed on the runway, but others were there to manage SS ‘24 sales, including Wynn Crawshaw and Lana Morrison from Wynn Hamlyn, and Sarah Harris and Lauren Tapper from Harris Tapper.  The latter duo also hosted a chic dinner event with fans who’d crossed the ditch including foodie Polly Markus, photographer Holly Burgess and Someday Studios co-founder Milly Hewitt-Wall.  Sydney-based Kiwi model Emma Kate Boyd was also in attendance for Harris Tapper, and she graced AFW’s venue many other times, including sitting front row at Rory’s show alongside photographer Rob Tennant.  Aotearoa’s fashion media crew were also in full voice, with Viva’s Dan Ahwa, Ensemble’s Zoe Walker-Ahwa, Together Journal’s Greta Kenyon, FQ’s Sarah Murray and Louise Dunn, and Remix Magazine’s Monique Oyagawa all in attendance.  Mount Maunganui’s Fashion Queen Rodelle Payne from Sisters was also there, as was NZFW founder Dame Pieter Stewart and her daughter Myken, as well as new NZFW owner Feroz Ali.  NZFW GM Yasmin Farry and Pead co-owner Anna Farrera were also there, plus recently-relocated Kiwi photographer Finn Cochran and newly-minted Russh staffer Phoebe Holden (ex-Remix Magazine).  And to top it off, Showroom 22 PR agent Charlie Rose was in attendance alongside her colleague, model and wellbeing guru Esther Cronin, jeweller Jasmin Scott from Jasmin Sparrow, influencer Rosalie Burns and her husband Myles Taylor plus TV3 head of wardrobe Sarah Stuart.  New Zealand’s fashion industry had a robust presence.

The Business of AFW 2024

Carriage Works is an incredibly unique venue, and one that offers a perfect balance of cavernous spaces, intimate rooms, alcoves for little sponsor pop-ups, a wide entry foyer, clean bathrooms and a generally rustic and cool aesthetic.  It’s perfect for fashion week, and probably not the first choice for a photocopier brand’s AGM, which is why I love it.  

AFW has always had great venues, from Fox Studios in the early 2000s to the International Passenger Terminal in the mid 2000s (the latter of which helped the event become a major postcard moment for any attendee who wanted a selfie of the Opera House or Sydney Harbour Bridge).  Carriage Works aptly carries on this tradition of epic venues, and has made the event, for me, feel more like a fashion week and less like a tourist attraction.  

The sponsorship involvement at AFW 2024 was intense, but made the event better, not worse in my opinion.  From San Pellegrino to Creed, AMEX, Allpress (yes, the Kiwi coffee brand repped Aotearoa hard in Sydney), Shark, Pandora, Porsche, eBay, the list goes on.  Fashion Weeks sometimes run the risk of being a fancy hosting moment for said sponsors’ fancy guests, but this year’s bevvy of brands came together in a way that made me feel like they were always there, and had become part of the event.  Nothing was frivolous, nothing seemed out of place.  

AFW gets a LOT of money from state government (and maybe federal government, too, but I’m not sure about that) which is something NZFW has seldom been offered (Government money, that is).  Surely the AFW costs are much higher than NZFW’s (one of their main show rooms’ production budget was rumoured to have cost more than what NZFW spends on a week on their entire event) but I felt like the money and presence of the NSW state tourism logo everywhere made the event feel significant and really, really important to Australia.  Can the same be said of NZFW?  If Tourism Auckland and the NZ Government backed the event with millions, I feel like that would make a lot of nay-sayers recognise that the event is a major revenue and hype generator, not a frivolous play thing for flimsy designers to air-kiss each other.  Anyone who’s read the latest Mindful Fashion report on the state of NZ’s fashion industry will know that there’s some major economic impact buried under all that taffeta.    

Best Shows of the Week

In no particular order:

  • Rory William Docherty:  if Rory put this show on in NZ he would be crowned the new KIng of Fashion in about 12 minutes. The show was mature, with a huge crowd and a significantly large venue that he easily filled. There were plenty of Kiwis sitting front row, but we weren’t there to fill seats – the Aussies had turned up in droves, too.  Rory’s local agency, The Known Agency, is clearly onto a winner with Rory and I hope that show results in some real financial success for him.
  • P.E.Nation:  Pip Edwards is a true Sydney icon, and has been for years.  This show pulled her brand out of athleisure-only-ville and shifted her closer towards the border 2015 Camilla and Marc territory.  The event was meant to be a full brand reset, and from all accounts it appears to have done a good job of doing just that.
  • Acler: Co-created by one of the old Aje designers, this collection slapped.  It definitely had that wearable and fun and glam Aje vibe but the model selection, soundtrack, set design, cavernous venue and very full guest list made it feel like a legitimately BIG TIME designer show.  Superette’s Rickie Dee was there and seemed to love what she saw, and one thing I do know is that Rickie KNOWS when she knows, so don’t sleep on Acler.
  • Carla Zampatti:  This show was epic in every sense. Another gigantic venue, hundreds of guests, an LED screen about 15m wide and 5 metres high with crystal clear visuals that backed the show, pulsing lights, powerful and diverse models that walked with purpose and passion.  This was what Australian Fashion Week has always done so well from my point of view: Nothing wishy-washy, no small budgets, just big, monumental, extravagant moments that take you out of the present and transport you to another place, even just for a fleeting minute.

Imagery from Getty Images