NEXT: OUR ASIAN LOOK
From colonisation until the middle of the 20th century, Australian society and culture was both formed and determined by the fact that we were a British outpost. Tweed and tea ruled. There was even an Australian aristocracy of sorts, best exemplified by the squattocracy. Housing was decidedly English, but with an Antipodean twist – block- square Georgian homesteads were surrounded by a sun- shading veranda. Australian food was framed by our English, Irish and Scottish heritage – meat and three veg, including potato. However, as the ethnic mix of the nation began to shift later in the century, with the coming of Mediterranean influences, the Australian sense of design and style changed. Our urban culture, especially, became more cosmopolitan and sophisticated. Housing design shifted from 1980s fussy to 1990s minimalism. Urban Australians started to dress in black. Food and wine has become so important that restaurants and cooking are now popularly viewed as engaging in an art form. Bits of central Melbourne and Sydney took on a distinctive Milanesque look. Our collective sense of design changed: We absorbed the best Mediterranean influences and eschewed the drabbest parts of English culture, such as food and, possibly, fashion. The question I have is this: If the Australian ethnic composition is changing to include more Asian, and especially Chinese and Indian influences, why wouldn’t there be a consequential shift in Australian style by the end of this decade? I have no idea how the upper middle class lives in Shanghai or Mumbai, but I suspect that Australian culture, being as spongy as it is, will absorb the best bits very quickly. If you’re in the fashion, food or design industries, I’d suggest a week or two in Shanghai simply to observe what’s hot and then look for ways to Australianise these trends. That’s the way to stay just ahead of the design curve in the 2010s.