Holding a fashion week in the land of speedos and thong sandals was an idea greeted with laughter when Australian Fashion Week was proposed in the 1990s but now Sydney is set on becoming the world’s fifth fashion capital.

Organizers of the event say ignoring the naysayers paid off, with the 13th Australian Fashion Week kicking off on Monday with more than 100 designers, 100 buyers from over 15 nations, and a number of A-list stars in the front rows watching the catwalks.

Simon Lock, who founded the event in 1995 but sold it to New York-based sports, lifestyle and marketing company IMG in 2005, said he believes Sydney is making its mark on the map as the fifth fashion capital behind London, Paris, New York and Milan.

“It is not a game to see who ends up on the top of the ladder, but we are clearly in the top league and that is important for our reputation,” Lock said.

“Becoming part of the top league is due to the perception of Sydney globally and the size of the event. We now have more shows on our schedule than London fashion week and more designers”.

But Sydney is vying with a list of other cities, with Lock estimating there are now up to 50 fashion weeks held globally each year with the once trade-only events now open not just to buyers but also media, and celebrities, and a handful of the public.

Lock, who still heads the event, said IMG’s strong links with key department stores and role as an international model management firm has shed new light on the Sydney show.

Australia’s fashion industry has benefited, with about 60 local labels now exported to Asia, Europe and the United States.

Lock estimates fashion exports net about $240 million a year, although figures are not precise as most designers are privately owned and don’t reveal their sales.


As the event has grown in stature, with designers like Alex Perry, Lisa Ho, Zimmerman and Sass & Bide leading the charge, so has its guest list.

A bevy of A-list celebrities are expected to be in the front rows this week, with singer Dannii Minogue and actress Miranda Otto reported to be in attendance on Monday.

Top model Miranda Kerr, the first Australian to appear in a Victoria’s Secret runway show, arrived back in the country last week, with actor boyfriend Orlando Bloom in tow.

“We’ve got a range, from Kardashian sisters, to Mischa Barton, to Orlando Bloom,” said Lock.

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