PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival announced its return for 2024 and with it a detailed programme featuring some of Australia’s most successful designers and brands. The premium runways will feature over 80 designers, across 12 shows at the Royal Exhibition Building as a celebration of the national fashion landscape. Household name brands will join the event including Aje, Oroton, Sass and Bide, Nobody Denim, Manning Cartell, Silk Laundry and Paolo Sebastian. Alongside veteran brands, runways w
runways will also be filled with garments by emerging designers and brands, including Par Moi, Injury, Ich Pig, Mariam Seddiq and Jam the Label. “We provide something for everyone, we are a consumer-facing festival. The vast majority of what we give is ‘see now, buy now,’” chief executive officer Caroline (Ralph) Ralphsmith told Inside Retail. “There is such a deep and genuine desire our customers have in Melbourne, Victoria, in Australia actually, for fashion and creativity,” said Ralphsmith. Fashion with values Whilst being a consumer-facing fashion event to encourage commerce, the festival understands it has both the opportunity and the responsibility to platform social values. “We are rallying around a few different themes and sustainability is a really big one for us this year,” said Ralphsmith. For the first time in the festival’s history, sustainability will not just have a front row but a dedicated runway. The Thread Lightly Runway in partnership with Deloitte will spotlight Australian designers that are minimising their impact on the environment, including Arnsdorf and Bassike. “All of the designers [featured] have gotten to a level of sustainability and consciousness around the environment that we really wanted to showcase,” said Ralphsmith. The festival will also celebrate emerging First Nations talent with a dedicated runway curated by the event’s collaborator Mob In Fashion. House of Darwin, Solid Ochre, Miimi and Jiinda, Amber Days, Wah Wah and Gali are just some of the First Nations talents that have been highlighted as the ones to watch and the ones to champion. The F*** The Invisible runway will elevate women in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond to disprove the notion that fashion and personal style has an age limit. “There is just as much desire at any age to express yourself through fashion and we certainly find that,” said Ralphsmith. “So, celebrating women of all ages seems to be a given – showcasing to them and to the world that you can reject that notion of taking a back seat and becoming invisible as you get older,” she added. Championing local talent P.E Nation will return to PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival following its National Design Award given by the festival back in 2018. Only this time the activewear brand will have a solo showcase of its own to honour its role in transforming street style and pioneering the athleisure aesthetic. “They really did have to follow their instinct, activewear was black and a little bit dull, it looked the same even though it had different brands on it and they just threw that out the window,” said Ralphsmith. “Following your gut and backing yourself is always a difficult thing to do but I think they have done that with such success and I think that’s a huge lesson for us all.” The platform of PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival to influence the industry and drive change is not lost on Ralphsmith and her team. “We have a lot of media attention so what we do, I think, can help lead,” said Ralph. “We need to make sure we represent the full Melbourne and Victorian community, we really actively recognise, respect and value those differences, that’s where the tapestry comes from I think. We make sure we do that both on the runway as well as behind the scenes.” The launch of PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival’s programme comes after other Australian fashion weeks have faced criticism for not living up to promises of diversity and inclusion. Ralphsmith disclosed that PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival is making it a focus point to represent the complete spectrum of Australia’s industry. “We have a D&I, a diversity and inclusion policy, that we look at regularly because there is movement, so we make sure that it is always relevant and we make sure that there are processes in place that we do help deliver against it,” said Ralphsmith. “To make sure that we are showing the full range of diversity in runways, whether that be ethnicity, whether that be size, whether that be culture […] I’m hoping we’ve already signalled that with our campaign this year.” The goal of the festival is to mirror the depths of Melbourne’s fashion industry and celebrate the artistry of designers and inspire consumers’ personal style. “There is just this ongoing love and desire to produce fashion, it’s sort of irrepressible,” Ralphsmith concluded.