7 Iconic Designers Share What Makes Australian Fashion So Special

It's never been more important to celebrate our homegrown talents.

At marie claire our ethos has forever been to champion the Australian fashion industry and those who make it truly unique. Whether that be finding an up-and-coming designer making waves on the sustainability front to ones that have claimed icon status thanks to decades of creating bold and quintessential Australian designs. Now more so than ever, fostering the Australian creative scene has been at the forefront of what we dodedicating our #WeWearAustralian series to the incredible designers who have had to shift their focus amid the ongoing pandemic, and supporting other creatives in the #SaveOurCreators campaign

Also living by that ethos is David Jones, who has launched its latest campaign, The Home of Australian Fashion, celebrating the incredible local talent Australia has to offerasking a range of its most influential homegrown talents what makes our industry pulse through to the global style set. From P.E Nation’s Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning to the incomparable Carla Zampatti, each designer reflects on what drives them most about being part of the community on our very doorstep. 

The iconic shopping destination couples this campaign with a new dedicated ‘Australian Made’ hub, which puts a further spotlight on brands that manufacture at home, as well as ones that are ‘Mindfully Made.’ As Bridget Veals, the GM of womenswear and accessories at David Jones says, “From established icons to fresh new talent, this season we celebrate the joy, creativity and individuality of our Australian designer community”, adding, “Our designers are our key talent and at a time where we are all experiencing huge challenges, it is so important to consider local when making purchasing decisions.”

Camilla Franks, CAMILLA

Few Australian, or even international, fashion brands can count themselves as recognisable as CAMILLA. Founded fifteen years ago on the shores of Bondi Beach, designer and artist Camilla Franks has cemented herself as the ‘Kaftan Queen’, with her unique and vibrant pieces worn regularly by the biggest names in the world (like Beyoncé, you may have heard of her?). 

“We are inspired by this big, beautiful, diverse land that is unlike any other,” Franks says of why Australian fashion is so special. “We are blessed with crashing coastlines, luscious tropical forests, iconic bushland, colourful reefs, sweeping beaches and of course, the big red heart of our land, the mighty Uluru.

“Aussie designers have the freedom to experiment and to design for our unique lifestyle,” she adds. “It’s a little more relaxed, it’s a little more fun, it’s a little more effortless. Our industry is defined by boundless creativity, and a somewhat eclectic sensibility, and of course, this amazing connection and community.” 


Carla Zampatti 

Carla Zampatti’s eponymous label, which celebrated its 55th anniversary this year, has firmly cemented itself on the global fashion stage—thanks to creations that are as bold, passionate and iconic as the designer behind them. 

The designer says, “I believe that we have a wonderful industry and it will recover stronger and even more creative.”

With a history as steeped in tradition as Zampatti’s, the designer also reflected on her fondest memory. “My designs being photographed at the Sydney Opera House when it was built” only to return for a 50th-anniversary collection in the Northern Foyer. 

Zampatti sadly passed away in April 2021, but her legacy will forever be grounded as not only one of Australia’s most talented and recognisable designers but as one of the world’s most inspirational and trailblazing women. 


Adrian Norris, Aje

The billowing silhouettes and Australian motifs have become synonymous with the designs from Aje, co-founded in 2008 by Norris and Edwina Forest. Their collections are grounded in the celebration of Australia’s natural treasures—the rich, unique and biodiverse ecosystem, from the desert to the bush to the ocean. 

“Uncovering Australia’s natural splendour and diversity is part of our design blueprint, something we are extremely proud of,” says Norris. 


Bec Cooper & Bridget Yorston, Bec + Bridge

After more than 15 years in the industry, the pair behind Bec + Bridge have never felt more inspired by what the brand is creating.

“As a brand, we’re inspired to move forward with an even stronger focus on sustainable and ethical practices and we believe this will be front of mind for a lot of Australian brands,” the design duo says. 


Pip Edwards & Claire Tregoning, P.E Nation

The epitome of cool-girl edge, P.E Nation has become a quintessential Aussie brand known and loved for its multi-faceted pieces. And no two people live by the brand’s ethos more than Edwards and Tregoning, who have created not just a brand but a lifestyle. 

“Australia is truly a lifestyle country, and at most one driven by its immense and beautiful coastline,” says Edwards. “To be urban, coastal and laid back, and unique and full of adventure and outdoor living…this is what makes the lifestyle that gives our brand context, and so much more meaning. Australia really is the land of plenty, and our product plays to all aspects.” 


Sarah Gittoes & Robert Sebastian Grynkofki, SARAH & SEBASTIAN 

Craftsmanship and sentiment sit at the heart of SARAH & SEBASTIAN, as well as a passion for pushing the narrative of environmental and social responsibility forward in the fashion industry. “Brands and industry at large are using this time and space to reflect, innovate and disrupt systems and dismantle processes that are no longer relevant,” the designers say. “We hope for the future this means the evolution of Australian fashion with a greater focus on environmental and social responsibility.” 

Earlier this year, Gittoes spoke to marie claire about how a recent experience seeing a Port Jackson shark with a fishing hook in its mouth while diving at Bare Island in Sydney’s Botany Bay inspired the brands Siren collection, which features earrings cast from real pieces of abandoned fishing ghost nets. “The more I saw rubbish in the sea, the more it affected me. I wanted to create a collection that started a conversation,” Gittoes said, who partnered with the Australian Marine Conservation Society to do just that.

sarah and sebastian

Alexandra & Genevieve Smart, Ginger & Smart

Finding inspiration from Australia’s cultural landscape is by no means new to sister-duo Alexandra and Genevieve Smart, who have looked to its beauty season after season. With a further dedication to creating a more conscious consumer, the pair hope this pause will allow for a rethinking of how the industry works as a whole. 

“Australian designers have harnessed the strength of looking to our own unique culture and landscape for creative influence,” the designers say. “There is a raw sense of truth and beauty to Australian fashion that is captivating the rest of the world.”


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