The best fashion shows are the ones where the crowd is as interesting as the collection. Think of the teen hypebeasts at Hood by Air or the elaborate drag costumes at the Blonds. So I knew Di$count Universe, helmed by Melbourne-based designers Nadia Napreychikov and Cami James, would be a trip when I saw boys and girls in sparkly bras and platform boots crowding the show venue. Then there was the glitter runway, in case you didn’t get the memo that their Sydney Fashion Week debut show — they had previously been a part of the VFiles group show in New York — would be a playful frolic.
If Jeremy Scott and Yazbukey met at a rave, this is the kind of clothing they would concoct. Napreychikov and James, who’ve counted Kylie and Miley as clients, sent bird-flipping models down the runway in message-heavy clothes, like pants emblazoned with every profanity you could imagine, or a jacket whose back read, “I Don’t Even Care Anymore.” Rose-covered sweatsuits and logo tees covered the streetwear quotient.
The models sported runway-sweeping braids and neon makeup meant to look like it was dripping down their faces. Everyone was having a good time, especially the teenage boy who excitedly screamed “Guns N’ Roses!” just as the lights went down. (Okay, he may have been rolling his face off, but that would also be on-brand for this show.) Fans like him have good news on the immediate-gratification front: They will be able to snatch their favorite pieces immediately, since the brand offered 20 looks online right after the show.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, though equally over-the-top, was the Romance Was Born show, held inside a stunning Gothic mansion in the Darling Point suburbs. Models wandered through the rooms dressed in looks that left no romantic stone unturned — like ruffled, cherub-embellished matador pants worn with a jeweled bolero, or a gown encrusted with starfish and seahorses, or an elaborate piano-key ensemble that clanked down the catwalk. Sometimes the effect felt excessive — the “putting a hat on a hat” approach. (To be fair: there were some wonderful hats, designed by Helen Kaminski.) But the collection, by Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales, did feel truly of this place, channeling the best side of Australian fashion’s greatest asset: its quirky, fanciful, and yes, romantic energy. Not a bad export to have.