day 4. noo-ay-vah.

3.1 Phillip Lim singlet, Aje sequin skirt, Isabel Marant sneakers, Sabre sunglasses.

I'm probably about the tenth blogger to have posted the I Heart Nueva York singlet in the last month, and here I was thinking that I was tres cool pre-ordering it from Moda Operandi last year after graced the runway in September. Old news Mel. And no, I haven't been to New York before though I've been dying to go since I was five and told myself I'd become a famous actress slash singer. I'm one of those  suckers who have this idealised view of New York (and it being the perfect city for me to live in) purely from having being exposed to it in movies and TV shows. Though I hear it is as good as it sounds/ looks and I have no doubt I will truly heart it whenever I make it there.

After having slaved away in heels for the the first three days of MBFWA (and for what? A bit of peacock-ing that had me going nowhere fast, literally) I decided it was time to stop dressing to please the fashion pack and wear something I wouldn't hobble around in. I returned to my trusty Marants and added a pinch of sparkle with my Aje sequin skirt (which I wore to fashion week last year on day four no less). Feeling a little dressed down for the occasion I went for the top recession-proof product, lipstick (I learnt this week in marketing that lipstick and alcohol are the two products people run to in times of economic crisis) in a vampy dark red. I think I've mentioned before how self conscious I get when I wear lipstick, particularly because my lips are so thick and full but I have since learned to embrace it. The only downside is the lipstick-on-the-teeth problem tends to be a common one for me so please don't be afraid to tell me if you see me.

Lunching at Shortlist Cafe, Redfern. Photos by Christine Ai

new gen. natalie & sarah.

Backstage and runway captured by Christine Ai

Whitehouse Institute graduates and close friends Natalie & Sarah showcased their namesake label at the New Gen show alongside the best up and coming talent from around the country. Their SS13 collection has a distinct wearability factor and an element of playfulness through the pops of fluro, embellished details and cheeky cuts that brought the fun back into what was otherwise a very serious week (I swear some people think it's a matter of life and death). Plus they brought their mascot and unofficial third member, Delilah along for the ride. A dog in a pink hoodie backstage at a fashion show? If that doesn't spell f-u-n, I don't know what does. I had a chat to N&S post runway to find out more about their journey from Bondi markets to fashion week runway. 

M: Congrats on your MBFWA debut, how are you feeling now that it's all over?
N+S: Definitely feeling a sense of relief. We are extremely excited about what the next few months has in store for us and ready to explore all the doors that have been opened!

M: What was the best part of your fashion week experience? 
N+S: The absolute best part by far was seeing our collection walk out onto to the runway on a little screen, back of house and the feeling of walking out onto that catwalk at the end was unlike anything we have ever experienced before!
M: And the worst?
N+S: Probably the nerves and not getting any sleep.

M: Describe your latest collection.
N+S: We were inspired by texture, silhouette and colour. Our collection took a modern twist on the 60's with a sporty, rock'n'roll, hard edge vibe.

M: Who is the Natalie & Sarah girl?
N+S: The N&S girl is a fun loving girl who is not afraid to be bold and take risks. While being feminine and girly, she also houses an alter ego that just wants to be crazy, wild and a little bit rock'n'roll. She's a real Wild Child at heart!

M: What's in store for Natalie & Sarah this year?
N+S: We are looking at expanding our customer base and gaining lots more exposure. We are also looking at hopefully stocking in various boutiques, nation-wide by the end of the year.

Tunes currently on repeat: The Xx, Daft Punk 'Get Lucky', Miami Horror, Swedish House Mafia, Ou Est Le Swimming Pool 'You Started', Kendrick Lamar.
Last big splurge: Our launch party! Including all the cupcakes, lollipops and candy we bought for it. We went a bit candy crazy.
Comfort food: Anything with potatoes, cheese, fried stuff, chocolate, candy and salted caramel anything!
Most prized possession: Delilah (yes they're referring to their pooch).
Ultimate getaway: Somewhere with a beach and coconut cocktail drinks on tap. We're not fussy.

Check out more from N+S on Facebook and Instagram.

backstage at suboo. hyperprism.

Backstage and runway captured by Christine Ai

There's so many hours that go towards designing garments that appear in your peripheral for about ten seconds and a runway show that spans for a maximum of ten minutes. It all seems a bit frivolous doesn't it? Such is fashion and the way the industry works. It's always a treat to be allowed backstage and observe all the prep and finer details that goes towards making the show look seamless from the front.

As much as I appreciated Suboo's directional change, leaving behind their brightly bold swimwear roots in exchange for more monochromatic, refined ready to wear pieces, the minimal hair and makeup look was something I adored even more. While it was all about letting the structural elements of the clothes do the talking, the glowing matte base, stained lips, soft structured brow and bronzed cheeks (they used Kate Moss as a reference image) left as much of a lasting impression as Sue Di Chio's multi-dimensional designs. As did the single lined french braid running down the model's side part which proved a subtle finish, visible only from up close. This is exactly how I would want to look everyday if I had any skill in the beauty department: Flourished and sunkissed. (Appropriate contextual use of my blog name?) That or I had enough money to hire a personal hair and makeup artist like Rachel Zoe does.

Hyperprism (or as I accidentally called it, Hyperparadise - hello Flume in two weeks!) signalled a new era for the label and the Suboo girl. With the sport/ swimwear references peppered throughout as a nod to their roots, the Suboo girl has been stripped back to the bare minimum, through her clothes and her look. This is the way she chooses to make a statement. Focusing on form, optical plays on light, contrasting textures and streamlined silhouettes, Suboo has produced a collection that certainly has the coolness and wearability factor down pat. 

day 3. esber gootness.

Christopher Esber top, Josh Goot skirt (from Basically Boutique), Dannika Zen wedges, Comme des Garcons clutch, Ellery sunglasses.

I tend to get satisfaction out of dressing down statement/ more feminine looking pieces in my wardrobe like teaming a tee with a sequin skirt (exactly what I did with my day 4 look) or a LBD with a track jacket. But there are some pieces that are reserved for equally great counterparts. Such is the case with this Josh Goot reef print skirt. This was a little anniversary gift from Jack via Basically Boutique/ Dimitra who managed to work her magic and put in a custom order for me (fairly sure this print was not made in the pencil mini cut). And every time I went to wear it, I just couldn't find the right top half - at least for its debut, though I'm positive you'll see me pairing this with a singlet or printed tee in the near future. When this Christopher Esber top of the mesh variety came along a month later, I knew it was destined for Gootness. Day 3 was my ode to two of the most coveted Australian designers right now, Josh Goot and Christopher Esber (and rightly so, I was at fashion week after all). I'm slowly realising I'm becoming the queen of separates because I hardly wear dresses. Not that I can anyway because most of them are all way too long for me. But what's not to love about separates? I can reuse this mesh top with jeans and loafers or this skirt with a blue sweater. The more the merrier. 

Photos by Christine Ai

one to watch. gabriel lee.

Captured backstage at the Raffles show by Christine Ai

I contemplated for quite some time about not attending fashion week. The queueing in uncomfortable shoes, waiting around and the pretentiousness and strict hierarchy of the industry improved little from last year. But then I saw Gabriel Lee's collection as part of the Raffles runway and remembered why exactly it was so satisfying. It wasn't the it names in fashion that were the most memorable, it was discovering the newcomers, the rising stars who will take over the reins over the coming years. And I'm relieved to tell you, the future of Australian fashion is in good hands. 

Gabriel Lee isn't new to the Raffles lineup. Last year he presented a sweet selection of flowy feminine pieces and sleek tailoring in dusty pinks and creams that resembled the wardrobe of a young Judy Garland circa the Wizard of Oz. Still focusing on the fragility of the female character and his fixation on bygone eras, Lee made a statement this time around with his striking monochromatic print, contrasting textures and bold (and unexpected) accessories to match. But seriously, a cap with a clear brim and fake flowers on it? Groundbreaking (no I'm not being sarcastic). Cai and I are having dreams of taking plenty of selfies wearing these.

Taking inspiration from the wears of a housemaid in the Victorian era (ah now you see it), The Daughter of a Maid artfully modernises romanticism (delicate silks, lace sleeves, frilled headbands, voluminous sleeves, high waists and long skirts) with hints of the now sports luxe trend (baseball caps, muscle singlets and boxy sweatshirts). An innovative fusion of two very separate and distinct periods really set his collection apart from the others I saw during the week. And I'm even more impressed with the accessories he's designed - the leather clutches emblazoned with his label logo, the statement jewelled earrings, the floral embellished caps and of course that insane floral headband that just trumps everything Lana Del Rey has ever sported. The only problem with new designers is that their pieces are hardly stocked anywhere. Gabriel, please open up your online store. Those sweatshirts, hats and clutches are mine!

leroy nguyen. the candy shop.

Captured by Christine Ai

One of the most anticipated shows of our fashion week season doesn't come from a name that we're familiar with but certainly one we won't forget as soon as the runway's over. The Innovators showcases some of Sydney TAFE's top graduates and is the prime opportunity for staking out up and coming Australian design talent. The esteemed graduates selected  they're in good company. Dion Lee, Emma Mulholland and Christopher Esber are all Innovator alumni so you can expect some pretty big things from the designers featured at this show. 

Fresh from his win as Fashion Design Graduate of the Year, Leroy Nguyen's second collection was an amalgamation of psychedelic prints, sleek tailoring, exaggerated shapes and bold hues. Taking inspiration from the swirls and layers of the gobstopper and the wonderful world of Willy Wonka, Nguyen produced a standout kaleidoscopic collection that packed one hell of a (sour candy) punch. While I loved his standout structured oversized bomber, my favourite surprise detail was the solid neon panel contrast on the back of his sheer pieces. Combining delicate organza with stiff neoprene and zipper details with perforated swimwear, The Candy Shop was nothing short of a crowd pleaser. This won't be the last you hear of Leroy Nguyen. 

watson x watson summer 13/ 14.

 Backstage as captured by Christine Ai.

The first thing you should know about Watson x Watson is that they never steer far away from their roots. With all the success the brand has achieved in two short years, sisters Liberty and Somer remain extremely grounded, never forgetting where they've come from. Their debut fashion week collection in 2012 was inspired by the bush raves of their teen years. Back for their sophomore follow up, the Watson sisters went through a 90's surf culture revival with their grunge-gone-luxe inspired collection. Growing up on the Coffs Coast probably had a lot to do with it.

The Watson x Watson girl wasn't a surfer herself. I imagine her sitting on the sand, watching her boy catching a wave while she herself preferred to catch rays. It was somewhat reminiscent of 3.1 Phillip Lim's neo grunge collection last September, but the laid back elements of the Australian surf landscape made it uniquely theirs. A modern take on Puberty Blues perhaps? There were feminine plaids with pink accents, jacket-tied-around-the-waist draping, thigh high splits and high wetsuit neckline contrasted with metallics and sequin accents emulating the ocean glistening in the sunlight. But no signs of neoprene here. No she doesn't like to get wet. Immersing herself in the surfie subculture she at the very least dressed the part. She was damn cool. She knew it and everyone else knew it.

The second thing you should know about the duo is that they're big on prints. I remember their very first collection featured a darker, more sophisticated take on the silk pajama print trend (to this day I am still beating myself up for not purchasing that print). Last year it was a hypercolour fluro interpretation of feminine florals and this time around they took the abstract swirls, textures and ripples of the ocean and turned it into one standout print. And to top it all off a bright matte pink lip, killer thick frame Sunday Somewhere shades and lightly teased hair with a half tuck. You could almost feel the salty sea breeze. 

kate sylvester. the last sitting.

My evening with Marilyn. 

Marilyn Monroe's life was bittersweet. Thrust into the spotlight after a troubled childhood, skyrocketing to fame and epitomising the ultimate sex symbol, she was both compelling and complex. Her life was surrounded with as much mystery as her passing. Intriguing and enigmatic, Monroe's double life was captured in Kate Sylvester's latest offering, The Last Sitting. Bert Stern's portrait series of the blonde bombshell spurred the collection though this was by no means a tribute to Marilyn as much as it was a study of contradicting forces, of lightness and darkness, of certainty and ambiguity, of face value and the unsettling feeling of something below the surface. Her artful balance of masculinity and femininity was unprecedented, bomber jackets with soft embellishments, button down shirts with embroidered roses and solid leather with sheer organza. It was attention to detail at its finest. 

The baseball motif resonated throughout the collection, a reference to her second husband, Joe Dimaggio. Stitching on baseball mitts reproduced on tan bomber jackets, the edges of a baseball  replicated on the seams of pants, the spherical shape of the ball outlined on lace and linen dresses. And let's not forget the caps that provided to a nonchalant air to the Sylvester girl.