Previous countries that have benefited from the program include Ukraine, Turkey and Finland, among others, and as Andrea Cavicchi, the president of Fondazione Pitti Immagine Discovery explains, the aim is to promote and enhance cultural exchange. “Australia is becoming one of the most interesting – and quickly growing – places in fashion and creativity today, that’s why we decided to dedicate a Guest Nation project to this country.”
The project was officially announced at a luncheon held at the iconic Sydney restaurant Bondi Icebergs, where Pitti Immagine’s managing director Raffaello Napoleone welcomed the eight designers into the Pitti Uomo family ahead of the event beginning next month. “We want to highlight the essence of Australian design and lifestyle with a selection of cutting-edge fashion designers and brands, and Pitti Uomo and its audience of international buyers, media and key fashion players.”
While Australia is revered for its production of wool, the country’s moderate climate means that, for the most part, its designers are more innovative with the use of cool wool and lightweight blends than chunky knits and heavy winter coats. In contrast, the designs of Melbourne fashion graduate Chris Ran Lin are particularly unique, offering as he does some of the most elaborate knitwear and wool tailoring in the global men’s fashion market.
A graduate of RMIT University’s masters degree in design and a nominee in this year’s International Woolmark Prize, Ran Lin is well poised to take his collection to the northern hemisphere, where he sees a customer for the avant-garde nature of his clothing. “This experience is about opening the door of my business to the rest of the world,” he explains. “I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting my craft, so now it’s about sharing it.”
In his spring 2018 collection, entitled NOISE, to be showcased at Pitti Uomo, Ran Lin sought to add detail to traditional menswear garments in the form of contrasting colours and textures, as inspired by the concept of noise. The resultant collection comprises a combination of sportswear and tailoring, such as wool trousers with cut-out details, knitted cardigans with laced fastenings, and bright details against a more subdued palette of grey, white and khaki.
Richard Jarman may not have a background in fashion design, but as the founder of a swim and beachwear label, he boasts one significant advantage over those who may have trained for years overseas: Sydney is, undoubtedly, one of the world’s greatest destinations for its unique combination of a relaxed lifestyle, picturesque beaches and athletic locals. “At the start, Commas was more for me than anyone else,” says Jarman, who set out to create a label that encapsulated his day-to-day style in a swimwear context.
With a day job in property development and strong interest in architecture and the built environment, the design component of Commas naturally followed the conceptual phase, with tie-front boardshorts, lightweight button-down shirts, hooded anoraks and superfine Merino wool polo shirts forming the seasonal collections. “Coming from Australia, I’ve found that wool really lends itself to this style of clothing because it’s really breathable and technical – we’ve made jackets that are water resistant – but also super luxurious. It’s easy to dress it up or down.”
With the northern hemisphere heading into warmer climes for the summer, Jarman anticipates a positive reaction to his European sales debut this month. “The Guest Nation project offers an opportunity that otherwise wouldn’t be available to [a label like Commas] for years, and already the coverage we’ve had has been amazing, so hopefully that grows even more when they see the product in person.”
For friends and colleagues Toby Jones and Mikey Nolan, launching Double Rainbouu in 2016 was a way of playing on their creative strengths and former experience, which is in print design and the building of a culture and community around a fashion label. For the best part of a decade, the pair worked together at Ksubi, the innovative Australian denim and streetwear label that redefined Australian fashion in an international context. “When it came to looking for something to do next, we really wanted to do something fun that was in fashion but a little bit on the periphery of it,” explains Nolan backstage after the label’s debut show at Australian Fashion Week in May. “Beachwear makes sense for us, given we’re in Australia, and while we both loved Hawaiian shirts, no one was doing them in a great, contemporary way.”
A year in, and with stores such as Barney’s New York and Lane Crawford stocking its wares, it made sense for Jones and Nolan to expand their product remit to provide greater year-round options, and thus in collaboration with The Woolmark Company, presented a capsule collection of high quality Merino wool knitwear, cleverly titled UUOOLL. “People can be loud and colourful with knitwear,” says Nolan. “Being a beach brand provided challenges in being relevant year-round, but this allows us to be present in all parts of the world in both summer and winter.”
Inspired by the surfer aesthetic of his hometown in suburban Melbourne, Australia, and in blurring the traditional categories of high-end luxury and urban casualwear, Ex Infinitas speaks to the contemporary consumer with its offering of wide-legged trousers, wool chiffon singlets, wrap-around robe-like overcoats and low-cut double-breasted blazers, all finished with subtle surf details, such as vintage boardshort yokes. “Creatively, that’s how I like to operate, because I love a pair of jeans, a staple in the wardrobe, with a t-shirt, but then I love ultra-luxurious fabrics and beautiful tailoring,” says designer Lukas Vincent. “Ex Infinitas is a melting pot of those things.”
Having represented Australia and New Zealand in the International Woolmark Prize final earlier this year, Vincent’s label Ex Infinitas is the culmination of years spent in different roles in the fashion industry, both locally and abroad, and represents a new direction in the possibilities of menswear. In his spring 2018 collection, to be shown at the Pitti Uomo Guest Nation project and thereafter to press and buyers during Paris Fashion Week, Vincent found inspiration in the sculptures of artist Erwin Wurm and colour palette of Viviane Sassen, evident in the use of a neutral palette of tobacco and biscuit with injections of fluorescent blue.
His first time at the trade fair, Vincent is excited to present his take on Australian menswear in tandem with the other Guest Nation designers. “From a networking point of view, I think it’s going to be so interesting to meet all of the different people from around the world, and by bringing these eight Australian designers together is really effective because as a group we are stronger. It’s also a great opportunity to visit some of the manufacturers and textile brands, because I’m fabric obsessed but geographically so far from these traditional textile hubs, so this represents a big opportunity for me.”
Visit any gym, take a walk along iconic Bondi Beach or step out for weekend brunch and you’re bound to see a stylish woman wearing P.E Nation, such is the popular rise of the Sydney-based activewear line of Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning, which is stocked around the globe in stores such as Selfridges, Lane Crawford and Kith. With near-daily requests from men about expanding the collections into menswear sizes, the designers will present the first fully-dedicated menswear collection as part of the Guest Nation project. “We never intended for P.E Nation to only be for women,” says Edwards. “It’s a tomboyish brand anchored in menswear tradition, and we want to continue to deliver what we already do for women: effortless, comfortable, functional everyday clothing.”
Continued in the men’s range is P.E Nation’s use of colour as a punctuation mark to a primarily block palette of black and white, as well as the heavily layered aesthetic that gives the activewear pieces a streetwear edge whilst still being functional for performance-based activities. This, of course, is where wool comes into play, with the designers embracing its performance qualities in jackets, tops, shorts and sweats. “We want to educate our customer that wool is one of the very best performance fabrics – that it’s odourless, sweat-wicking, thermo-regulating and holds its shape.”
While Pitti Uomo is traditionally a convention for suiting, P.E Nation demonstrates the changing nature of menswear in the 21st century, and injects a very Australian energy into the trade fair. “Having begun as a women’s brand, the opportunity is quite daunting but has been an exciting challenge. We’re looking forward to telling our story, and there’s no better way to do that than in person,” says Edwards.
“Obviously menswear offers a massive opportunity in terms of how much the market is changing, which means there is a space for emerging brands like never before,” observes Mario-Luca Carlucci, one half of the Melbourne-based label Strateas.Carlucci, created in partnership with Peter Strateas. “It’s amazing that Australia has been chosen for this season’s Guest Nation as there really is so much talent here, and every designer will bring something different and interesting.”
Unlike some of the other brands, this isn’t Strateas.Carlucci’s first time showing abroad, having presented shows on the official schedules of Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks several times in recent years, helping to establish a broader profile for the burgeoning label, known for its innovative riffing on tailoring and fusion of sports and suiting. At Pitti Uomo, Strateas.Carlucci will show a further evolution of the resort 2018 show it presented last month at Australian Fashion Week, entitled Transit, which took as its inspiration the underground Metro of Paris. “We really found inspiration in the juxtaposition between the raw, gritty side and the canopy of the city, with its history and glamour,” says Carlucci.
A former two-time International Woolmark Prize finalist, having represented Australia for both the menswear and womenswear finals, the label’s relationship with wool is an enduring one, and while the Australian-grown fibre appears in traditional iterations, such as suiting and overcoats, the designers have found ways of updating it for a younger audience, too. This collection features a series of jacquard knitted tracksuit tops and bottoms with retro motocross prints, as well as lightweight, water-repellent, windproof trench coats and windbreakers. “It’s a wearable, functional fabric, and that makes it amazing to work with,” says Carlucci.
Bondi-based label Ten Pieces has explored fabrications to deliver a collection stamped with vertical prints influenced by industrial architecture and landscapes. Its sporty punk muse has a more refined overall look, suggested through detailed finishes. References to Sharpies see the collection having a raw and quintessentially Australian edge. Collaborating with The Woolmark Company for a Ten Pieces Merino wool jersey collection, the special edition collection comprises soft earthy colours, offsetting the black and white staples and reinterpreting the Ten Pieces signature silhouettes.
Through working with The Woolmark Company, Ten Pieces has connected with one of the world’s most important spinners, Zegna Baruffa, which is one of Australia’s single largest buyers of fine and superfine Merino wool. The partnership between Zegna Baruffa and Ten Pieces highlights the connection between the Australian wool industry and top Italian manufacturers, providing Ten Pieces designers Maurice Terzini and Lucy Hinckfuss the opportunity to visit the Zegna Baruffa factory in picturesque Biella in Italy. Terzini, an iconic Australian restaurateur, went back to his Italian roots with Hinckfuss to discover the iconic farm to fashion journey and witness how freshly shorn fleece is converted into the most luxurious fabric. “[I’m] feeling a great sense of connection and tradition between Australia and Italy,” said Terzini.
Photography Liz Ham
Leading the 2018 resort schedule, Australian Fashion Week shows wool for the warmer months
A recent RMIT University masters graduate, Chris Ran Lin produces some of the most innovative knitwear in men’s fashion