Many thanks to the organisers of i-D Dunedin Fashion Week who invited me over as a guest of this year’s event, which wrapped on March 20.
The invitation (my second – sadly I couldn’t make it in 2013) was primarily to join the judging panel for the jewel in the crown of the 17 year-old event: the i-D International Emerging Designer Awards.
This year’s competition attracted 150 international entrants, who were eventually whittled down to 38 finalists from 10 countries.
On March 16 at the Dunedin Town Hall each finalist had six minutes to win over the judging panel, which also included New Zealand designers Kate Sylvester, Tanya Carlson and Nom D’s Margi Robertson, with two VIP London imports in the form of New Zealand-born designer – and Duchess of Cambridge fave – Emilia Wickstead and Stefan Siegel, founder of Not Just A Label, the world’s leading emerging designer eCommerce platform that features 21,000 brands.
We powered through the day’s presentations, interspersed with coffee breaks, a lovely lunch and lots of tantalising industry gossip (Wickstead’s lips nevertheless remaining ziplocked on matters Kate).
Like a more compact version of Melbourne’s VAMFF, i-D Dunedin Fashion Week is a week-long retail festival of ticketed runway shows promoting in-season collections and a myriad of cultural events staged in and around town, such as exhibitions and design seminars. Given the spectacular, remote location and the international ambiance – with the town’s bars abuzz throughout the week with international fashion students and their entourages – I walked away from the event feeling that it shares some commonalities with the Sundance Film Festival.
A many-time visitor to the New Zealand Fashion Week wholesale trade showcase in Auckland, it was my first time to Dunedin, a tiny city of just 127,500 located way down on the bottom east coast of the south island. Originally settled by the Free Church of Scotland in 1848, the name Dunedin is derived from the Scottish Gaelic version of Edinburgh.
Despite its size, the city nevertheless boasts New Zealand’s highest concentration of heritage Victorian and Edwardian architecture, thanks to the Central Otago gold rush of the 1860s which saw a development boom that made Dunedin New Zealand’s largest city by population growth until 1900 (its now the seventh largest).
One particularly striking building, the Edwardian Baroque Dunedin Railway Station (below), designed by George Troop, is in fact the stage for i-D Dunedin Fashion Week’s two biggest runway shows.
I really enjoyed the event, not to mention the breathtaking scenery of the Otago Pensinula, around which my host for the week, Fletcher Lodge’s Ewa Rozecka-Pollard, kindly took me on a whirlwind ‘Tiki Tour’ on the Friday in her convertible Merc. I’ll definitely be back to check out more of this beautiful part of the world, where you will find the world’s only land-based breeding colony of albatrosses, among an abundance of other wildlife, such as rare yellow-eyed penguins, blue penguins, seals and sea lions.
Although I was the only Australian on the six-strong judging panel, I felt pangs of guilt when Australian students wound up taking out not only 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes, but five out of the seven total prizes on offer this year. Of those five Australian students, interestingly, four came from the same design school – the University of Technology Sydney.
Australians had already dominated the finalists list with 18 names, almost double the number of Kiwis. However the competition is now in its 12th year and Australians have not always featured as prominently, I was told. Our much larger population and greater volume of design schools weren’t necessarily the key factors here, according to those I spoke to, who cited the strength of the talent coming out of Australian schools at the moment.
Twenty-four year-old Jordan Anderson from Brisbane’s Queensland University of Technology was pretty much unanimously our number one pick for the top prize, his vibrant ‘Global Citizen’ sport luxe collection and high energy personality really standing out from the pack. I had first seen Anderson in Sydney in December, when he was a finalist for the 2016 Australian Fashion Foundation internship program.
Here are all the 2016 finalists – who included incidentally the AFF’s 2016 womenswear recipient, Panayota Theodore:
And below, the seven overall winners. Third place-getter Stephanie Frig wound up with the added bonus of an internship with Wickstead in London.
The H&J First Prize ($6000) Jordan Anderson, 24, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
The ZM and Viva Editorial Prize (awarded to best NZ collection): Kingkang Chen, 24, Whitecliffe College, New Zealand
The Susie Staley Special Achievement Award ($1000): Ilham Ismail, 21, University of Technology Sydney, Australia.