Mercedes-benz-fashion-festival-brisbane

Top Couturier Launches Casual Range At Fashion Festival Return

Leading couturier Paul Hunt will launch his first casual and lifestyle range at this year’s 10th anniversary Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane at the John Reid Pavilion, Brisbane Showgrounds, from August 23-28.

RELATED: Emerging Swimwear Label Makes Fashion Festival Debut

Paul, 44, who splits his time between Brisbane and Paris, is renowned for his exquisite bridal gowns, finished by hand and created using the finest materials, intricate embroidery and embellishments. His breathtaking, luxurious Parisian-esque evening wear also makes him one of Brisbane’s, if not Australia’s, most prestigious, talented and in-demand couturiers.

Now, after one-year festival break, Paul’s fresh back from Paris to showcase his bold, new direction in a triumphant return at this year’s milestone Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane.

Paul Hunt, Paris style, fashion, Australian fashion designers, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane

“It’s really exciting to be back to showcase this new casual and lifestyle collection,” Paul says. “It’s a more accessible component – there are casual sets of clothing together, yet it’s still limited-edition. And there are no dresses at this stage, so it’s a complete turnaround from what I’ve done in the past – a complete new approach.

“It’s a different price point, but it was also created to give people a bit more of the Paul Hunt brand rather than just me being associated with bridal and special occasion and evening wear.

“Of course, I still get a kick out of bridal. It’s just so good to be a part of people’s most loving day.”

Armed with “fresh eyes, a fresh mind and a fresh heart” after his Parisienne jaunt with his partner, who’s based there, Paul says he’s got a brand new lust for life – and fashion.

Paul Hunt, Paris style, fashion, Australian fashion designers, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane

“I’m also really currently loving looking at how outfits and gowns from fabrics that are ordinary can be used in different ways!” he enthuses. “And then the evening gowns I’m doing are a little more refined. Oh and there is lots of lovely fabrics from Paris and London!

“My life is all about travelling at present; I’m heading back to Paris again soon. The benefits of having a partner living there include me having the opportunity to work in both Paris and Australia so I have the best of both worlds. It’s great for me work-wise – I do a lot of sourcing for fabrics when I’m in Paris. My partner loves Australia and will be coming out for this year’s fashion festival.”

An avid fashion designer since he was 16, Paul initially thought he’d become a costume designer. Now, after turning professional for more than 20 years, he’s still as passionate as ever about his craft and absolutely adores designing his bridal and couture ranges.

“My passion changes from time-to-time. Like all things in life, it depends on what’s happening around you. Sometimes it’s a dress style that gets me motivated, but more often or not it’s the fabric. I’m a textiles man. I love a great fabric – whether it’s a beautiful silk or lace or a stunning print,” he says.

“Being in Paris has given me a rest! After 10 years in a shop-front business, working almost seven days a week for a large part, it was nice to take a breath and take a look around; to look at the world with freshness. It was great! I approach fashion with a calmer feel.

“I loved Paris for Paris. It’s just beautiful and gritty and fun. Learning more of the language was great too. Now, I look at fashion with a different eye. French is different to Anglo-Saxon culture; there is a refined feel to the everyday Parisian. Yes, it’s the capital of fashion couture and one of the leaders of world style, but the everyday Parisians don’t walk around in couture gowns, yet they do have a refined look. I think I’ve taken some of that with me. A lot of the new collection was worked on in Paris this spring (their spring) so that has had a huge influence.”

Paul Hunt, Paris style, fashion, Australian fashion designers, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane

Paul’s other major muse is his new jewellery collaboration with fellow Brisbane-based costume jewellery designer Chelsea de Luca. “Look out on the runway for that and there will be limited-edition jewellery on sale too,” he says. “One of my closest friends whom I’ve known since I was a child, who has a keen interest for sparkly things, also gave me an old jewellery piece of hers. I’m currently using that as inspiration along with my collaboration with Chelsea.”

And Paul’s greatest personal indulgence in the busy lead-up to the fashion festival? For him now, it’s the simple joys. “Just the smile stuff,” he says, “Being on the sofa, next to the other half, with a scotch and soda, then a pizza. Oh and a chocolate is a must!”

This year’s 10th anniversary Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane will showcase the best spring/summer collections by big names such as Nicola Finetti, Jayson Brunsdon, Alex Perry, sass & bide and Easton Pearson. In addition, cult celebrity favourite Aje will make its Queensland catwalk debut in the Myer Spring/Summer 16 Fashion Show also starring The Face of Myer Jennifer Hawkins in her festival debut.

Paul Hunt, Paris style, fashion, Australian fashion designers, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane

Paul, who’s long been an avid supporter of the festival, makes his long-awaited return alongside some of these biggest names in Queensland and Australian fashion in the Group Show 2, says Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival director Lindsay Bennett.

“Paul Hunt has been a fabulous addition to the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival, participating every year bar one. He’s made a name for himself as a Brisbane fashion favourite, with his couture and ready-to-wear collections always creating an amazing show,” Lindsay says.

“We never know quite what to expect from Paul each year except that we’re guaranteed a beautiful collection and plenty of ‘wow’ moments. He certainly knows what women dream of wearing and I think everyone waits with equal excitement for the ‘show-stopper’ that always closes his runway! We’re really proud to have him in the fashion festival again this year.”

For full details and tickets, visit www.mbff.com.au.

Images via theurbanlist.com, theblondesilhouette.com.au

August 7, 2015

Emerging Swimwear Label Makes Fashion Festival Debut

Two Queensland sisters set to make their fashion show debut at this year’s historic, 10th anniversary Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane are taking on the big boys in swimwear fashion and design – and winning.

RELATED: Australian Fashion Designers: Dyspnea

Simone Wilkins, 23, and Carly Wilkins, 30, (pictured) who split their time between their native Gold Coast and Bali, have been busily growing successful swimwear label Eau Paix Vie (EPV) since 2011.

And success has been swift; their quirky, colourful, fun and fresh swimwear label, which sells exclusively online via their website, has already caught the eye of countless A-list celebrities. Models-of-the-moment, TV personality Kendall Jenner, fellow swimwear designer Sahara Ray, new face of Seafolly Gigi Hadid and Victoria’s Secret hotbod Maud Welzen have already proudly donned EPV Swimwear designs.

fashion, Australian fashion designers, swimwear, Australian fashion label

Eau Paix Vie, which means “water, peace and life” in French, was thus named by the sisters because the words perfectly encapsulate what their label is all about: a fun approach to swimwear and life. And the Wilkins sisters’ signature, cheeky-cut and two-tone bottoms (pictured) have set them apart from the competitors, scoring them legions of young fashion fans and social media followers – not to mention the patronage of the aforementioned supermodels – in the process.

“We wanted to combine three simple words that represented our label, and added the French twist to capture an element of the love and inspiration we gain from travel,” says Carly, who spoke to me from the US, just prior to her getting on a plane to come home to Australia.

“Our travels inspire us a lot; we love keeping busy and exploring new places around the world and their respective people, cultures and environments. We like to keep the designs fun to reflect the carefree, happy vibe that we endeavour to represent.”

fashion, Australian fashion designers, swimwear, Australian fashion label

With some of the world’s hottest models proudly wearing their designs, you’d think the sisters would be fashion show veterans, but not so – they’ll be making their label debut at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane NEXT Hotel Next Gen Group Show on Wednesday, August 26 at 8.30pm.

“Seeing celebrities wear our swimwear is great, but we really take a lot from and appreciate everyday girls tagging us on their holiday pictures and the kind emails that we receive – it’s the small successes like that each day that contribute to great success,” Carly says.

“We are very excited to be taking part in MBFF as it’s our first fashion show and it’s close to our Australian base, as well as being the 10th anniversary of the event. We are thrilled to be a part of such a fun show and for people to see what we have been working on and just to experience the event.”

And given hot swimwear is a huge draw-card at the fashion festival, EPV is sure to attract plenty of attention, says Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane director Lindsay Bennett.

“It is always exciting to see next gen designers on the runway each year, as they bring fresh ideas and aesthetics,” Lindsay says. “The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane is all about supporting local fashion talent and nurturing up-and-coming designers and we are proud to give them a platform to showcase their collections. Swimwear is certainly something Queensland is renowned for so we are looking forward to seeing Eau Paix Vie Swimwear’s bright and colourful collection!

“From what we have seen so far, Eau Paix Vie offers a great range of swimwear cuts, prints and unique colour combinations – it all evokes days at the beach and amazing Queensland summers and we look forward to seeing more from them on the runway. We can see many fashion lovers snapping up their swimwear this summer.”

fashion, Australian fashion designers, swimwear, Australian fashion label

Prior to launching EPV, Carly had two degrees under her belt and was studying a Masters in Criminal Analysis, while Simone was working in fashion retail. And despite their lack of formal fashion training, both young women put everything on the line to launch their dream job. While EPV’s designing is done primarily in Australia, it’s made using the highest quality Italian fabrics, with the manufacturing process completed in Indonesia.

“Simone had recently returned to Australia from travelling in Europe and I had returned from living in Asia. We decided we should just take the risk and do it!” Carly says. “It did take a lot of time to refine everything – an ever-evolving and continuing process – we just started at bottom and continued to work to create the label we have today.”

And while the sisters have different roles in their business – Carly is the business brain, while Simone is the design and creative end – the sisters share a clear vision for a successful swimwear label with an office in their beloved New York City. But like any emerging business brand, they’ve suffered some highs and lows along their path to success.

“As sisters, it can sometimes be trying [working together],” Carly says. “But we get to do something we love and we can work from anywhere in the world! We are passionate about what we do and I think that shows a lot on our brand. The worst part is probably the unpredictability of it all – which designs will be popular and which may not be – translating to what sells and what doesn’t.

“We signed on with a big PR company out of the US which just didn’t work out for us the way we had anticipated. I wouldn’t say that was a big mistake, as you learn and grow from everything, and it’s all an experience.”

fashion, Australian fashion designers, swimwear, Australian fashion label

The sisters’ favourite fashion brands include Free People, Planet Blue, Nike and fellow Aussie label One Teaspoon. And at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane – staged at the John Reid Pavilion at the Brisbane Showgrounds from August 23-28 –they’ll have the pleasure of showing alongside other rising stars including Peony Swimwear, Kabel Apparel, Roux May and more.

And in news just in, Myer is bringing The Face of Myer, Jennifer Hawkins, to walk the runway alongside Myer Ambassador, Kris Smith, in celebration of the event’s milestone 10th anniversary. For the full program, details and bookings, visit www.mbff.com.au.

July 7, 2015

Will France’s Crackdown On Thin Models Affect Australia?

When Paris, the fashion capital of the world, moves to ban super-thin models in an attempt to combat anorexia, the rest of the global industry takes notice.

RELATED: 9 Major Street Style Trends From Fashion Week

But what impact, if any, will this have on the way Australian modelling agencies and fashion festivals do business?

French parliament last Friday voted to criminalise modelling agencies’ use of critically thin or malnourished models; sparking protest from some key French industry figures who accused the government of confusing anorexia and thinness. The tough new measures will see modelling agencies caught using models under an as-yet-unspecified minimum body mass index (BMI) face the threat of up to six months in prison and a hefty fine of €75,000 – about AU$108,000 – for flouting the law.

model ban. anorexia, BMI

Up to 40,000 people reportedly suffer from anorexia in France; 90 per cent of whom are girls and women. Spain already bans models below a certain BMI from working at Madrid fashion shows and Italy orders health certificates for those on the catwalk. And the new laws back recent research by the London School of Economics that imagery of ultra-thin women does significant and measurable psychological damage to women and young girls.

Meanwhile, back in Australia, the head of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane, which will this year be staged from August 23-28, expressed grave concerns over how France’s tough new super-skinny model ban would be policed. MBFF director Lindsay Bennett (pictured) strongly agrees the fashion industry has a duty of care to only book healthy models, but questioned whether it’s fashion designers, rather than modelling agencies, who should be held accountable for the use of super-skinny women and men on the catwalk.

model ban. anorexia, BMI

“Anorexia and eating disorders are an illness and should be managed in a professional way by the appropriate people – to prevent a girl (or guy) who may appear thin (or a lower than normal BMI) from working – could further harm her just as much as ignoring the signs, so it needs to be carefully and professionally managed,” Mr Bennett says.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so I thought. Agencies represent models of all shapes and sizes, be that plus-size, short, tall, black, brown, and every shape and colour inbetween.

“For a Government to impose fines or imprisonment is certainly a different approach. How this is policed would concern me. Most young people today gather their information from the internet so how this is also policed is a far greater challenge. And BMI is a difficult way to assess if a model is too thin or undernourished.

“And it’s the fashion designers who are looking for models to fit a specific size – and not the agencies. So, should not the pressure and penalty be placed on designers if we are to go down this path?”

model ban. anorexia, BMI

MBFF has never used unhealthy or too-skinny models, Mr Bennett says. “What we have set in stone at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival in year one was a model guideline for only booking models that were not too thin or appeared to have any issues,” he says.

“In the nine years that we have been staging this event for the state [Queenland] we have never been criticised for booking anorexic models – guys or girls – and if a model did cast for us who, in our opinion, looked undernourished, we would speak directly with the agency to covey our concerns.”

Jodie Bache-McLean (pictured), director of both June Dally-Watkins (JDW) and Dallys Model Management, agrees it’s the expectation of the clients – fashions designers the world over – which is to blame.

social media predators, business expert, career advice

“There is an issue with body image with young women today and it’s not just within the modelling industry,” Jodie says, “I have a deep concern about young women’s body image and how they see themselves. They aspire to unrealistic images which they see in the media and on Instagram.

“I believe the expectations from international modelling agencies is the key problem – girls are expected to be unrealistic measurements – size zero or 34, 24, 34 inches, which is so tiny. I would rather a girl didn’t work overseas than have to fit these unrealistic measurements.”

MBFF is this year celebrating its tenth anniversary. It will now showcase the best of spring/summer style from the historic John Reid Pavilion at the Brisbane Showgrounds.

Images via Twitter, The Social Standard, fashion-weeks.net

April 7, 2015

Juli Grbac’s Fashionable Life In New York

She’s uber talented, smart and beautiful and if you don’t her name yet, chances are, you will become very familiar with Juli Grbac soon. A fashion designer hailing from Brisbane, Juli was the first winner of international TV show Project Runway Australia (pictured below) in 2008. She famously designed a dress for singer Kelly Rowland which the ex-Destiny’s Child chanteuse wore at a concert for Prince Albert of Monaco in Cannes.

Taught to sew by her dressmaker mother, Juli developed a love of fashion at a very young age. She studied fashion design in Brisbane and London before working for several big fashion names, including luxury Brisbane-based label Easton Pearson, before starting her own label, Grbac, in 2002, at the tender age of 22.

And as part of her Project Runway Australia prize, Juli had her designs showcased at the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Week in 2009, which received rave reviews, as well as a six-page spread in the now defunct Madison Magazine.

Juli Grbac, fashion designer, glamour, New York
A darling of the fashion set, Juli showed at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane, her label was stocked in top-end fashion retailers and she opened a stand-alone store in Brisbane’s funky Fortitude Valley which closed one year later.

Juli’s recent successes include re-designing Virgin Australia’s crew uniforms in 2010. The glamorous and elegant uniforms (pictured) were unveiled in 2011, with a catwalk show featuring Elle Macpherson and 60 Virgin Australia crew members.

Here, Juli talks SHESAID readers through her amazing success and plans for the future, having relocated to a glamorous bachelorette pad in bustling New York.

What drew you to NY? Are you living the dream? I was 33 and came on my own to New York for a holiday, just after Christmas.  On my second day here, I felt like I had truly arrived home. I knew that this was where I was meant to be at this time in my life. I made the move within nine months, and I haven’t looked back. I am very blessed that I get to travel back and forth between Brisbane and NYC. I come back to Australia every two months, to check-in on my clients, which offers me opportunities to see my family and friends in Brisbane. The travel can be exhausting, but it’s really the dream situation.

Please describe your amazing NY apartment and how you came to find it? I live downtown in the Financial District, one street away from Wall Street. I had a broker find this apartment for me, and when I saw the place, I knew it was the one for me. André Balazs, famous for designing The Standard hotels and The Mercer Hotel in SoHo, designed the apartment building, so the style factor is seriously there. It is a chic place to call home! I live alone (pictured below) – my life is truly ala Carrie Bradshaw right now: a closet full of shoes, cocktails for dinner and I’m enjoying dating in the Big Apple.

Juli Grbac, fashion designer, glamour, New York

Your Instagram followers recently got to see you at NYFW (main shot above). What were some highlights? Fashion Week is such a great time in New York!  It is a lot of fun and I get to see all my fashion idols at the shows and parties. I have made many industry contacts, so while attending the shows as a new local, it definitely ends up being a mix of both business and pleasure.

From designing a dress for Kelly Rowland to uniforms for Virgin Australia, what’s been your career highlight to date? I will never forget dressing Kelly Rowland! It was one of my favourite moments on Project Runway Australia. After also having the opportunity to show at Australian Fashion Week and the Brisbane Fashion Festival, it was surreal to also win the bid to design the uniform scheme for Virgin Australia (pictured below). I also love being a part of the Virgin family, and seeing the crew looking fabulous whenever I board a VA flight.  You would think nothing could top that, but being blessed to work now from New York, for Virgin Australia and my other collaborations, is a dream come true.

What’s best about designing for Virgin? Designing uniforms, as opposed to a collection of ready-to-wear, totally took me out of my comfort zone. I have always embraced a challenge and have loved this experience to fuse the needs for an international airline with my signature designs. My favourite part is getting on a VA flight and the girls thanking me for their new uniforms. That, for me, makes everything worthwhile! For the uniform, we developed our own Virgin Australia red – I even had to fly to Shanghai to approve it!

What new, exciting projects have you been working on? My design business has shifted from a ready-to-wear line – which I of course loved creating for my customers, to now purely consulting for several brands. I can’t wait to share my designs again with the public. I have been working on a chic line of travel accessories for the past year, everything from travel clutches right through to luxe luggage. We will be launching it next year and I am dying to see these pieces floating around the Virgin Australia cabins and lounges! I know what every jet set woman needs: I travel so much myself that I have a packing routine and know that there is a gap in the market for what I want to create. Think jet set chic, with spectacular hardware. I plan to bring the same attention to detail I had with my garments to my new travel accessories. I can’t wait to share the collection with SHESAID readers next year. Watch this space!

Juli Grbac, fashion designer, glamour, New York

What do you love most about being a fashion designer? I love transforming the way a woman feels about herself. When my business was more focused on made-to-measure garments, I used to love the moments where a client may have just had a baby, and had her first post-baby event to attend, like a wedding. Seeing the joy on her face was the ultimate repayment.It is truly not just how someone looks in my designs, but how I can make them feel. That is my true reward.

Who are your style icons? My ultimate style crush is Olivia Palermo. I have always been a fan of her style. She tasks risks and gently pushes boundaries, while always maintaining femininity. I love her eye for putting looks together! I always love what Kimye, Ciara and Miranda Kerr are wearing at the airports. The check-in counter is the new street style and I look forward to sharing my upcoming collection of travel accessories.

Who are your favourite fashion designers? Valentino is the ultimate for me. He is the king of feminine and beautiful shapes, without going over-the-top. I also love what the girls at Marchesa are doing. They share Valentino’s aesthetic, but their designs are so whimsical and dream-like and their latest London show was to-die-for!

How do you balance business and pleasure? Working for yourself is the greatest challenge. You need to ensure self-control and self-motivation. It can be hard to get into the work-zone, when you’re living in the fabulous playground that is New York! However, I have worked for myself for the past 12 years, so I get the work done. I schedule one night a week to focus on getting organized. On that night, I will clean, organize my week ahead and pay bills and… Spray tan! Living in NYC is challenging at times – it is the city that never sleeps and there is always something going on. When I first got here, I would always try to go to every event possible to socialise and network. That novelty wears thin, very quickly. It gets exhausting, so I am a lot more selective with events now and really choose to spend time with people who lift me up and support me.

Do you ever pinch yourself because of your amazing success? Every morning, I wake up and thank God, not just for the success I have had so far, but for my health, my family and my friends. It has been challenging, but I never gave up and I knew it would pay off. I always pushed myself, with all the successful projects that have been shared with the public, and many that didn’t see the green light. At times, I still find it to be a struggle, with so much I still want to achieve and share, but after so many years, I am grateful to keep feeling inspired. I love my work, but cannot wait to slowly develop a lifestyle approach with my brand.

What are your favourite NY landmarks? Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys! Those two department stores are one of the only reasons I go uptown here in Manhattan. I also love having lunch on top of Bergdorf’s and that surreal view overlooking Central Park!

What do you miss most about Australia? I miss my family. I have always had the most supportive family and being alone in a big city can get hard. So, when I land back at Brisbane International, I already feel the love!  I also love our laid-back lifestyle, we don’t take the bad things in life too seriously, especially in Brisbane, and we just live in the now. Australia will always be home however I am just enjoying this international lifestyle while I can.

What advice would you give to other aspiring fashion designers? Never give up. This is, of course, not new advice, but even when you have no money and you feel there is nothing more you can do… There is always something! Get a part- time job (anywhere) for regular income, and then spend the rest of your time perfecting the craft you believe you can shine in, and gain as much work experience as possible. I pretty much worked for free for eight years, as making money in your own self-funded fashion line is near impossible in a small local market, but I worked part-time at a pharmacy to maintain my dream. It is lots of hours, and the hustle is real; but if you stick with it, it does pay off. Truly believe in yourself. Always believe in your dreams; and always trust your gut feeling, when going into business with anyone.

What personal sacrifices and obstacles have you had to overcome?
One of the biggest obstacles was dealing with the business side of things. I am naturally a creative, however managing the books, doing budgets, selling to wholesalers and general running of the business was really hard. I couldn’t afford anyone to help so it was all just me learning as I went along. No regrets though, I have lost all my money twice and bounced back both times so if anything it’s just made me stronger. As for sacrifices, when I was 22, I was slaving away with my mum in the work room under my parents’ house. I was never out with my friends. I worked and worked and worked. Sacrifices are all part of the journey, knowing you are moving towards your goal makes everything that much easier.

Project Runway image via www.smh.com.au and VA uniform pic via www.boudist.com.

September 20, 2014