Brisbane fashionistas descended on the Queensland State Library last week for the highly successful QUT Fashion After Hours ‘Brisbane Women in Fashion’ seminar. What was an enlightening conversation about the issues and identity that Brisbane’s fashion community has experienced over the last 30 to 40 years included a panel of some of Australia’s biggest fashion players all based within Brisbane.
The panelists included Thea Basilou of Blonde Venus, Kath Horton a QUT Fashion discipline leader and The Stitchery Collective co-founder, Faiza El-Higzi of The Romero Centre and probably the most well known of all the nights panelists, Lydia Pearson and Pamela Easton of fashion label, Easton Pearson .
The discussion covered a range of subjects around the role that fashion plays within the Queensland community, culture and its very distinct identity. Whilst the decision was unanimous in how much Brisbane likes to dress down during the unforgiving warmer months, the character of Brisbane’s cultural identity was best described by Lydia Pearson as a somewhat sub-cultural identity.
“I think things are much more homogenous now….and that is actually a [terrible] thing to be lost because Brisbane’s becoming a more socially acceptable place to live,” said Lydia jokingly casting a light hearted feel over the evening, “Well I hope all of you who are laughing lived here in 1975, because really if you told people you were from Brisbane when you were in Sydney or Melbourne, then you were from nowhere and the things that we held dear in Brisbane weren’t things that you could explain to anyone who wasn’t actually here.”
Given that Brisbane has in the past had such a strong stigma attached to it in terms of fashion and culture it was motivating to hear why high end stores such as Blonde Venus decided to stay in Brisbane rather than move to a more cosmopolitan southern city.
“It is that desire to keep things happening here, to keep it growing, you could move anywhere and do the same things but why not do it here in your home town. I question myself all the time, I do say that sometimes, ‘why am I still here?’. But I think it is that desire to keep wanting to see it grow and have more things happen and inspire, to keep that really good feeling happen,” said Thea Basilou.
Blonde Venus stocks international and local labels including Karen Walker, Josh Goot, Hussein Chalayan, Opening Ceremony, Dr Denim, Dion Lee and Sarah Philips. The store is also a supporter of young design talent and was the first store to stock another now successful Brisbane fashion designer Gail Reid’s Gail Sorronda. Gail Reid has recently been living in Paris and was featured in Vogue Italia, after showcasing her Stem The Flow collection at this year’s Rosemount Australian Fashion Week.
Young designers and artists have been moving away from Brisbane to try their luck in Sydney and Melbourne and also abroad which is an issue that has faced the industry for a number of years says Thea.
“We do lots of art exhibition events and lots of things within the youth and art community to keep things moving, to keep things happening; otherwise I’d just go crazy. I’ve actually felt compelled to do more in the recent years because I am scared about us losing that and keeping people here, keeping the young people here, because they are still moving away or seem to be moving away more so than before. They’re leaving us.”
To hear the rest of the discussion log on to http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/ in the next few weeks where you will be able to listen to the hour long seminar and two more that were held in conjunction with the 2011 Brisbane Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival.