Backstage at Paolo Sebastian – Adelaide Fashion Festival 2016

Gilding lilies

Headed to the Adelaide Fashion Festival over the weekend – as a guest of festival organizer the South Australian Tourism Commission, so many thanks to SATC for the kind invitation and hospitality. Also, to AFF creative director Chris Kontos, for some added event insights.

My third AFF in fact, after attending in 2010 and 2011, it was a whistlestop “Radelaide” visit, but I managed to squeeze in quite a bit. Notably, four runway shows and a tour of the spectacular, new seven storey North Terrace headquarters of upwardly-mobile Adelaide fashion outfit Australian Fashion Labels – the manufacturers of five contemporary labels, including C/Meo Collective and Finders and which opened a bricks and mortar outlet in Los Angeles in April for its BNKR multibrand omnichannel platform. Chased up with a coffee with Australian Fashion Labels founders Melanie and Dean Flintoff (many thanks to Tania Debono for the hookup).

Also, lunch at Kate and Hamish Laurie’s Deviation Road Winery in the beautiful Adelaide Hills; lunch with an old school mate; and a coffee with the talented Adelaide-born fashion illustrator Leo Greenfield, whose career I have been following for some time and some of whose work was on display at the Art Gallery of South Australia, the venue of Saturday night’s show ‘A Night of Fashion at the Art Gallery’.

Sunday’s two Paolo Sebastian shows were my personal highlight. The 6pm show was opened and closed by Canadian supermodel Coco Rocha, the festival’s special guest, who flew down with her husband James Conran, baby Ioni and mother Juanita.

It was great to see couturier Paul Vasileff’s work up close (he uses an Italianized version of his first name and middle name as a brand name, Paolo Sebastian – convinced few could pronounce/remember his Bulgarian surname).

From memory, some of his gowns were featured in group shows at earlier festivals I attended, but it was the first time I had seen a solo Paolo Sebastian show.

Vasileff is a great story.

Twenty six years of age, he has been making clothes since he was 11 and launched his label nine years ago, with 50percent of sales now international.

Vasileff operates his own couture atelier in Adelaide, where he employs 13 staff, a number of whom looked to be on hand backstage on Sunday.

Specialising in hand-crafted evening wear, Paolo Sebastian gowns are heavily-embellished, usually in a delicate, sugared almond palette. In high rotation on the Australian red carpet, the brand has also found its way to both the Oscars and Golden Globes.

In July, also supported by the South Australian Tourism Commission, Vasileff took his Fall 2016 ‘Gilded Wings’ collection to Paris to show privately during the Fall 2016 haute couture season. Sunday’s shows featured both the Fall 2016 collection and an unveil of the new Spring 2017 collection ‘Wildflowers’.

The festival has really blossomed since I last attended.

Founded in 2008 originally by the The City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters council, Tourism South Australia looks to have injected quite some funds into the event, which now has a slick central runway hub at Victoria Square. Great to see other events folded in, to strengthen the lineup. Case in point the five year-old ‘A Night of Fashion at the Art Gallery’ – which in 2012, during my last visit to Adelaide for a separate fashion event, was staged at a different time.

Great to also see Adelaide’s continued hot streak in the modelling department, with new faces showcased at previous events I’ve attended in the city going on to much bigger things.

Joining names like Melissa Johannsen and Madison Stubbington is 18 year-old Lily Nova (to the left in the third shot from the bottom, in a short blue cocktail dress).

Scouted by Adelaide’s Finesse Models and signed to IMG worldwide, Nova was the face of this year’s festival. She also walked in four Gucci shows this year on an exclusive basis: the women’s Fall 2016, Resort 2017, men’s Fall 2016 and women’s Spring 2017 shows.

A few of my backstage shots from Paolo Sebastian.


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