Zimmermann swaps MBFWA for New York Fashion Week


krystal glynn backstage at zimmermann SS1213
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia is counting down to the Spring/Summer 2013/2014 showcase from April 8 -12 at its brand new venue, Carriageworks. That’s nearly a month ahead of the event’s traditional time slot of late April/early May, a change that was made last year after concerns were raised by many in the industry that the timing was too late for contemporary buying cycles. But it seems you can’t keep everyone happy.

A number of designers, including Alex Perry, Jayson Brunsdon, Aurelio Costarella, Alice McCall, Bless’ed Are The Meek, Camilla and camilla + marc are already confirmed for the SS1314 event. In Perry’s case, he is returning to MBFWA after a year’s hiatus, preferring to show instead last year at the retail-focussed L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival in March, citing the late timing of MBFWA as his primary issue with the industry event.

Frockwriter is only too aware that the story of who is not showing at MBFWA often tends to dominate Australian media coverage in the event’s leadup – part of the seemingly neverending beatup about what a crap event it is. In two years time, when MBFWA celebrates its 20th anniversary, no doubt the critics will still be predicting its imminent demise.

That said, we did find ourselves doing a double take yesterday when it came to our attention that one of Australia’s biggest fashion publicists, Marie-Claude Mallat, does not have a single client showing at MBFWA this year, for the first time in 18 years.

Since the event’s launch in May 1996 – originally as Mercedes Australian Fashion Week - Mallat, like almost every other local fashion publicist, has been flat out in the lead up, in Mallat's case with a minimum of three designers showing and a maximum of six.

But not showing during either MBFWA this year or even during the unofficial schedule of off-schedule shows that usually take place the week beforehand will be MCMPR clients Zimmermann, Carl Kapp, Gary Bigeni, Magdalena Velevska, Sara Phillips and Yeojin Bae.

To be sure, not all of these designers have been MBFWA regulars.

Zimmermann, however, most certainly is a fixture on the Sydney schedule and this will be the first year the brand will not be showing, which seems fairly significant.

Zimmermann in fact launched its now hugely successful swimwear capsule collection at the inaugural Australian Fashion Week in 1996, assuming that the brand’s ready-to-wear collection might be a much harder sell internationally.

Zimmermann has gone on to establish a formidable retail, wholesale and export business, with a network of fifteen of its own stores in Australia and two international stores now opened in Los Angeles and New York over the past 18 months, with more in the pipeline.

And while Nicky and Simone Zimmermann have patiently stood back on the sidelines of the international fashion circuit and watched while many of their compatriots showed offshore at the big fashion weeks in New York, London and Paris – and in more than one case, coincidentally, subsequently experience severe financial difficulties and be forced to sell large chunks of their businesses – now is Zimmermann’s time to shine OS it seems.

From September, the Zimmermanns plan to show on-schedule twice a year at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York.

"We're heavily focussed on our international growth, particularly in the US” Nicky Zimmermann told frockwriter. “Showing in New York makes sense for us now as we focus on growing Zimmermann overseas. Our business in the US is strong - in particular, our ready to wear collections are really hitting the mark and showing us there is a lot of potential in this area for us.

“I spent the last week in New York presenting Fall to US press. I'm now working on Resort which we will show there in early June and then we will be on schedule at New York Fashion Week in September for Spring.”

As for Mallat’s other MBFWA no-shows this year, while they all have “different reasons”, she noted, Mallat denied the difficult retail climate has played a key role in their decisions, citing instead the new timing of the event as the biggest turnoff.

“People are still spending the money that would spend [at MBFWA] but they’re reallocating it” said Mallat. “I think it’s just timing, if that timing doesn’t work for your selling calendar, then why do it?”

But didn’t the industry tell MBFWA organisers IMG Fashion Asia Pacific that the original time slot was too late for them? The 2013 event was originally slated to run concurrently with Australian Exhibitions and Conferences Premiere trade show in the last week of March, however the timing of Easter this year proved problematic and so MBFWA was pushed back to early April. There was also criticism from LMFF organisers about the proximity of the two eventsif MBFWA were to be staged in March. 
“I don’t think the industry unanimously said that [that it was too late]” she added. “We certainly didn’t. The event is still going to be the best way to kick start a collection for brands that are emerging. And I think some of our brands will go back to doing it next year. It’s perhaps [that] the change of venue and change of time has prompted people to think about what they’re doing. Normally we would hold off and show a combination of first and second summer in April/May. Now we’ve got Resort becoming a much bigger focus and that’s not until June. We ended up with three summer seasons in our showroom. If it had been in the last week of March it would have made sense. Even coming forward they probably didn’t bring it forward enough”.