Afterpay Australian Fashion Week is back for 2023, and with it comes a jam-packed schedule. Every year, there are a few things we can count on coming out of Fashion Week, like the incredible street style that inspires our shopping habits for the season ahead, and the runway trends that fuel us all the way through summer.
One thing that's undeniable about this year's schedule is the emphasis on emerging designers. Along with the firsts — like the first runway dedicated to modest fashion on Day 1 with Asiyam, and the first solo Indigenous runway with Ngali on Day 3 — we have our eyes firmly fixed on what's happening between shows, too.
Ahead, catch up on exactly what everyone at Australian Fashion Week (which runs from May 15 - 19) is talking about, both on and off the runways. Check back in every day as we update this story.
1. A Welcome To Country Marked The Official Start Of Fashion Week
Like last year, Australian Fashion Week attendees were welcomed to the Gadigal lands on which Carriageworks lies, with a traditional Welcome to Country.
Guests experienced a traditional smoking ceremony, marking the beginning of an exciting Fashion Week, which sees the first solo show by a First Nations designer take place on Wednesday with Ngali. Ikuntji Artists, the first Aboriginal art centre for Western Desert women, is also showing at Fashion Week on Thursday.
2. Modest Fashion Took Centre Stage On Day 1
Modest label Asiyam celebrated its first solo show on Day 1, marking the first show dedicated entirely to modest fashion. Designer Asia Hassan took part in the Next Gen show in 2022 and told Refinery29 Australia ahead of her show on Monday that she's tired of hearing the trope that "sex sells" and believes that modesty is the future of fashion.
The resort collection featured Hassan's signature pleats and draping that billowed as the models walked the runway. There was also a special guest appearance from modest content creator Nawal Sari, who was the epitome of spring in a neon lime green cape over a floral blue maxi dress, with matching gloves and hijab.
3. The Brands That Made Their Models Feel Powerful
Though we don't like to play favourites, we will always have a soft spot for shows where you can tell the models feel confident and powerful. From the first moments of the Youkhana show, it was obvious that it would be exactly that kind of show.
Model Bell Chief Campbell led the charge on the runway, followed by models who all wore intricately braided designs that featured feathers and tasselled raffia — from the headpieces down to the shoes. The show was cast with models who represent Youkhana’s dedication to inclusivity of all shapes, sizes, genders and ethnicities.
At Gary Bigeni on Tuesday night, models walked in bright, bold prints that featured oversized polka dots and later the same evening, models weaved between art installations created by artist Akira Isogawa at the Iordanes Spyridon Gogos show. Both shows cemented Tuesday night as one of the most powerful nights in the AAFW program, with models from diverse backgrounds that all looked proud to walk down the runway.
4. Aje Celebrated Its 15th Anniversary With The First-Ever Show At The Sydney Modern Project
On Day 2, Aje celebrated its 15-year anniversary with the first-ever show at The Art Gallery of NSW's new gallery, Sydney Modern Project. Gemma Ward kicked off the show in an all-white look, leading the models through the three-storey building for a truly jaw-dropping show.
The show's location was a nod to the brand's appreciation of the art world, and gave it a distinct air of effortless cool. This theme was carried through the beauty looks as well, where the inspiration was "femininity-with-an-edge," according to Elizabeth Arden beauty director Isabella Schimid.
5. Ngali Made History With The First-Ever Solo First Nations Show
At AAFW 2023, Blak excellence is having its moment on centre stage. On Wednesday, Ngali became the first ever First Nations label to have a solo show at Australian Fashion Week, with 30 looks seemingly gliding down the runway led by one of Australia's most iconic models, Samantha Harris.
Later the same day, seven Indigenous designers showcased their incredible works as part of the David Jones Indigenous Fashion Projects Runway. Today, the Ikuntji Artists (which was the first art centre established by women in the Western Desert Art Movement) will also have a solo show at Carriageworks.
5. Dancing On The Runway Guarantees Impeccable Vibes
One of the shows we haven't stopped thinking about is Erik Yvon's high-energy runway that saw models (including Keiynan Lonsdale, shown above) dancing down the runway, making eye contact with seemingly every showgoer as they went.
The hair and makeup included candy-pink wigs with finger waves and graphic eye looks that only accentuated the edginess of the garments themselves. During the finale, the models (and Yvon themselves) lined the runway to dance and ensure that everyone left on a high.