Culture + Style

Sydney’s Little Black Book is a Fashionista’s Delight

A new wave of designers is sweeping away preconceptions about Australian fashion, producing a look that travels well and is right for the times.

Sydney’s reputation as a sun-drenched idyll, populated by perpetually bronzed blokes and babes in bikinis, has worn thinner than a treasured pair of yoga pants.

Over the past decade or so, a first wave of homegrown Australian designers has overcome the challenges of working in the opposite hemisphere to the rest of the fashion world, and sent modern, considered collections down runways in New York and London.

The next wave of local designers to watch is well and truly washing away the clothing cliches with an outlook rooted at Bondi Beach that looks toward global markets for commercial survival.

The Designers

sydney shopping
Take a peek at Emma Mulholland’s edgy offerings (pictured above) while shopping at Desordre. (Photo: Getty Images)

Rapidly pushing his way to the front line is Christopher Esber, who made his Australian Fashion Week debut in 2008. Along with an intensity and solid streak of perfectionism, Esber’s signature is his dedication to fabrication.

Simple ribbed knits are bedazzled with Swarovski crystals, silk satins go beyond pajama shapes into unexpected silhouettes, and a super soft wool weave, developed in partnership with a Swiss mill, is given flattering structure. In Sydney, you can find him at David Jones department store and Parlour X boutique in Paddington.

Take the intensity down just a notch and catch up with Kit Willow Podgornik. The designer’s urban edge has been replaced by a focus on sustainability and ethical fashion. It’s more organic cotton T-shirts and crushed linen dresses that manage to make having a social conscience seem sexy. Head to KITX‘s industrial-vibe flagship boutique at 108 Oxford St, Paddington.

Filling the party dress void is Bec & Bridge. If you’re after a crop top, jumpsuit or come-hither cami for a Tinder meet-up over cocktails at The Wild Rover in Surry Hills, then start shopping. Head to David Jones department store for a sample of their style.

Your first stop for leather in Sydney will always be R.M. Williams for a pair of riding boots, but make your second stop any rack with one of Kahlo’s rock-and-roll minis. This emerging label has a knack with leather and suede, cut with a modern-day Debbie Harry in mind.

sydney shopping
The fashion scene in Sydney is hot, as young designers fill the city’s runways. (Photo: Getty Images)

Eyelets, fringe detailing and hemlines that are best accessorized with attitude are perfect for young rebels with a credit card. Look for pieces at Desordre boutique, 323 South Dowling St, Darlinghurst

Add some color to your shopping list by looking at Emma Mulholland‘s offerings while at Desordre. Mulholland’s humorous approach to print and ’80s palette guarantee a smile, while scalloped skirts and roomy sweats give the vintage outlook a contemporary focus.

Hit the Shops

To get your fashion bearings in one quick hit, step out of the CBD to the inner city suburb of Paddington. At the long-running Saturday markets at the local primary school, labels such as Zimmermann, Sambag and Dinosaur Designs got their start, but for a seven-day retail fix head to The Intersection.

Located where Glenmore Road meets Oxford Street, Swedish export Acne sits at the end of a strip offering a snapshot of Australian design. Naturally there’s a Zimmermann store front and center, with another sister act, Ginger & Smart, nearby. Alexandra and Genevieve Smart’s forte is sophisticated printed dresses but their accessories continue to pack a fashion wallop.

 inner city suburb of Paddington
You’ll find some of Sydney’s best shopping in the inner city suburb of Paddington. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Bassike boutique showcases the evolution of founders Deborah Sams and Mary Lou Ryan from being pioneers of the ethical fashion movement in Australia. Their rolled hem T-shirts are a staple from Bronte Beach to the playground of Palm Beach.

Stroll around the corner to sample Josh Goot or Sass & Bide, but definitely duck into Jac + Jack for a polished take on basics, with classic-cut jumpers and T-shirts in rich cashmere, merino wool and soft cottons. They may have a London outpost now, but you’ll still get more wears from their signature linen shirts beneath Sydney’s sun.

Finally, make like a French fashion editor at Carine Roitfeld’s favorite Paddington pit stop, Scanlan Theodore, where the effortless approach to Australian dressing has been perfected in silhouettes at the heart of the new season executed in quality fabrics.