A sar­to­rial ad­ven­ture reveals the best of made-in-Aus­tralia fash­ion.

ELLE (Canada) - - Travel - By Liz Gu­ber

t’s a good thing I can barely swim. I’ve been in Aus­tralia for al­most a week, and I’ve been so caught up in the surg­ing lo­cal fash­ion scene that I’ve only had a mo­ment to wade an­kle-deep into the surf at Bondi Beach. Not that I’m dis­ap­pointed: In­stead of get­ting sand in my shoes and wa­ter in my ears, I’ve been spend­ing the week ex­plor­ing ev­ery cor­ner of Syd­ney’s fash­ion scene.

One high­light is the In­ter­sec­tion, in the in­ner sub­urb of Padding­ton, an early Vic­to­rian neigh­bour­hood turned style hub. The quiet feel of “Paddo” is un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of a shop­per’s par­adise—it’s all quaint two-storey houses with fil­i­gree ter­races. Most doors lead to lo­cal de­sign­ers’ bou­tiques, and the best lunch is at a tucked-away court­yard café, the Bonython. But the sleepy vibe of the place only adds to the feel­ing of hav­ing stum­bled upon a well-kept se­cret. Luck­ily for me, I have an ex­pert guide— ELLE Aus­tralia’s style ed­i­tor, Dan­nielle Car­ti­sano—to help me nav­i­gate the lo­cal sights.

“Every­thing is very fluid at the mo­ment,” Car­ti­sano tells me as I work my way through flow­ing dresses printed with the lo­cal flora at Ginger & Smart, a 14-year-old la­bel with its own range of can­dles. She’s right—as I weave in and out of stores along Ox­ford Street, Padding­ton’s main strip, I no­tice that the slight­est breeze flut­ters the loose dresses and tu­nics, as if en­chant­ing me

to try them on. Over at Bas­sike, pur­veyor of cool minimalist ba­sics (the la­bel’s name is a play on the word), sun-kissed surfer girls can find a range of re­laxed or­ganic-jer­sey tees made lo­cal­ly and slouchy denim sourced from Ja­pan. “The Aus­tralian girl, she likes to be loose and com­fort­able, but she likes to show her­self off. She’s to­tally con­fi­dent,” says Car­ti­sano.

With sum­mer tem­per­a­tures some­times hit­ting the 40s and the ocean ir­re­sistibly near, it would be easy to as­sume that all Syd­ney style skews more hip­pie than haute, but the scene in Padding­ton tells a story that goes be­yond those floaty flo­ral shifts. There was the fash­ion man­ager at Ellery, Aus­tralia’s best-known fash­ion ex­port and the la­bel re­spon­si­ble for this sea­son’s off-the-shoul­der ob­ses­sion, dressed in one of the la­bel’s sculpted black crepe dresses paired with black socks and school­boy bluchers. And down the street, at stylist turned de­signer Alice McCall’s store­front, the racks are filled with sar­to­rial psychedelia: crop tops adorned with curlicues and jump­suits printed with but­ter­nut squashes. And that’s just one block!

“The great thing about the Aus­tralian girl is that she’s happy to ex­per­i­ment,” says Brid­get Yorston, who, along with Becky Cooper, is part of the de­sign duo Bec & Bridge, a 13-year-old la­bel with a sta­ples-witha-twist men­tal­ity. “She doesn’t al­ways get it right—the out­fit can be a bit off­beat—but with the right at­ti­tude, it just works,” says Cooper.

Shan­non Thomas, co- owner of bou­tique Dé­sor­dre, is more blunt: “We’re pretty naked,” she says from be­hind the counter at her walk-in-wardrobe of a store lo­cated on a sleepy res­i­den­tial street a few min­utes away from the In­ter­sec­tion. Thomas stocks the country’s buzzi­est names, like Christo­pher Es­ber, who bal­ances tai­lor­ing with streetwear, hy­per-min­i­mal swimwear brand Mat­teau Swim and Bianca Spender, whose knack for drap­ing un­ex­pected sil­hou­ettes has made her a fi­nal­ist for the In­ter­na­tional Wool­mark Prize. “It’s about the con­trast,” says Thomas. When I point to a pair of or­nate Ellery flares, I’m told that the ac­cept­ably Aussie way to wear them is with my boyfriend’s grungy band tee. The lo­cal ap­proach is any­thing but pre­cious and pre­dictable.

Which makes sense since Aus­tralia is back­wards—but in the most fash­ion-for­ward way. When I vis­ited in Novem­ber, sum­mer was just heat­ing up; the country’s up­side-down sea­sons have made de­sign­ers and con­sumers ex­perts in trans-sea­sonal dress­ing. Even Syd­ney’s Fash­ion Week has adapted—last year, it made the shift to show­ing re­sort col­lec­tions, be­com­ing the first Fash­ion Week in the world to do so. And the world is watch­ing: Take Dé­sor­dre’s In­sta­gram ac­count, which has a 56,000-strong fol­low­ing. The shop ships as far away as Canada and Tan­za­nia. Just putting on th­ese Aussie clothes in­stantly gives you a care­free at­ti­tude. What could be a bet­ter es­cape than that? n

An Alice McCall store; a look from Ginger & Smart (right); a Bas­sike shop (be­low)

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