Time to choose a new cossie for the summer holidays and some stylish resort wear to go with it – look no further than emerging Gold Coast designers who are taking the fashion world by ‘a huge summer’ storm.
While the Gold Coast has been synonymous with swimwear since Paula Stafford pretty much invented the bikini back in the 195o’s, an innovative industry program to nurture new designers, the only one of its kind in Australia, is putting the city firmly at the forefront of a now burgeoning fashion sector (swimwear, resort & active wear) set to be worth $20 billion globally by 2020.
And the designs are exciting, says one of Australia’s top fashion stylists Kimberley Gardener, who oversees David Jones’ national fashion shoots and was brought to the glamour strip by the Gold Coast Swim Fashion Festival (GC-SFF) to style-up the city’s best emerging talent.
“It just makes so much sense to have an emerging designer’s program like this and I can’t believe that it isn’t being done anywhere else in Australia. The Gold Coast absolutely has the opportunity to shine in the swim and resort wear niche,” says Kimberly.
Check it out behind the scenes.
Even with so many different designs to choose from it can be daunting to select a style that flatters your figure and suits your summer lifestyle – whether lounging by the pool, swimming at the beach or getting active outdoors. And the thought of braving those change rooms, eek!
Just as well Gold Coast designers have you covered (or not so much) in a vast array of styles – from active-wear that holds everything in and sheer and floaty resort-wear cover-ups, sleek one-piece designs and retro-influenced two-pieces that cover a bit more, to sporty and skimpy bikinis.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself – in ten year’s you’ll be saying ‘what was I worried about!” is Kimberly’s advice for braving swimsuit selection. “Stand in front of the mirror and try on about 20 designs – the Gold Coast has so much variety.”
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For designers it’s also about having confidence in their own skin in a competitive on and offline world, according to fashion business mentor Liz Parsons of Wyse Lifestyle, a Gold Coast brand with 20 year of success behind it.
“When we started out there was virtually no internet and no social media but nothing really has changed in terms of the need to find your niche, know who you are and what you want to give as a designer and then pursue that gap in the market – and don’t forget retail,” says Liz.
For Liz, who has evolved from designing underwear to complete lifestyle collections, it has always been about their signature environmentally friendly fabric and the concept of helping customers build on basic pieces, season by season, as trends change and customers age.
“It’s not just about saying ‘I want to be a designer’ – they have to be driven by wanting to help people – it’s about heart and passion,” says Liz.
For the new crop of 15 designers ‘the riches are in the niches’, or at least they hope they will be – from Kate Davis Steer with her SunSoaked label that provides stylish sun-safe wear, inspired by her own brush with melanoma, and which is now finding an export market in Indonesian luxury resorts, to designer Robyn Surmon, a single Mum of two with Multiple Schlerosis (MS) whose children’s label Tayla-lu is growing fast and who is being assisted to manufacture in China by Suzie Gennari of TOGS, a brand that has enjoyed significant export success with swimwear designed to flatter any shape. Pluss Activewear is filling an important market to help plus-size women feel comfortable exercising.
The full scale fashion shoot involved professional photographers, TV crew, make-up artists and models with the swimwear showcased on the beach, and poolside at Pepper’s Soul Surfers Paradise. Kimberly Gardner chose a signature piece from each designer that would help them make their individual statement.
“I wanted to pick a piece from each collection that stood out and showed the diversity of the Gold Coast – I didn’t want to tell the same story,” she says.
“To me it is the visual – if I don’t like a design, I won’t look further, but they need to have a good story behind it too, research to find the right market and be persistent in seeking editorial.”
Director of Gold Coast Swim Fashion Festival Leanne St George has developed a program that is much more than a chance to get some nice product marketing images – it’s about giving designer’s access to top industry talent and knowledge across styling, photography (by award-winning photography Brian Usher of Ocean Road Magazine), marketing, social media and general business operations including comprehensive sessions by TAFE Gold Coast, to an awards fashion show scheduled for June 2106.
An emerging designer’s trade show will be held in June, while GC-SFF fashion shows are scheduled for November 2016.
“Unless we invest in the future of the resort and swim industry, we have no industry. The Gold Coast is famous for its iconic fashion and resort lifestyle, so we concentrate solely on those fashion categories that Australia is famous for, and that is swim, resort and active,” says Leanne.
“I didn’t think they would be as advanced as they are – the program that Leanne is running has really brought out their potential and has taken them to the stage where they are ready to meet the market,” says Kimberly.