Despite the winter rains soaking the city, the first of the coming season’s blossom is unfurling in Melbourne. Timely then that the spring / summer 2011 interpretation of Melbourne spring fashion week was launched today. MSFW, as it’s also dubbed, is of course a consumer fashion week; that is its aim is not to debut future fashions but to get us, as consumers, to buy the new season clothes and accessories that are appearing in stores.
MSFW 2011 is in for its biggest challenge yet. After all, Melbourne is a city in which fashion retailers are in a downward spiral, their sales outlook bleak. Thus the fashion week’s sole purpose this season has to be to work to reverse that trend; it has to get those who attend its events shopping again.
So what’s new for MSFW this year? And how might it excite us, as fashion consumers, and help those who sell fashions it’s hoped we’ll covet?
If anything it feels that the newness adapted to this year’s MSFW is in part from lessons learned from its Melbourne fashion festival counterpart, lessons then married with the needs of a tax payer funded event. Thus the fashion week this year offers a program that sets catwalks against business seminars, and ensures that for the most part they have a heavy Melbourne focus. And a Melbourne focus it has. While it’s always been a Melbourne based event, the city has never been so prominently featured at any of the past launches for the week; were this press conference held on Twitter, Melbourne would have trended so frequently was it name dropped.
Event organisers are also at pains to point out that this year’s MSFW will be better than last, and the production value certainly seems that way. Last year’s media launch felt low budget and hastily thrown together, this year’s feels anything but. The tie-in promotions, from the video to today’s launch ‘catwalk’, also promise that the crowds will certainly have more to enjoy than in the past. Better it promises to be, bigger too. Those aforementioned crowds are expected to be up from 80,000, hitting 100,000 attendees this year; there are 150 events on the program, 25 more than last year; 80% of the design talent is from Melbourne. The figures go on. But in short, MSFW’s organisers are promising that 2011 will be the biggest of its 17 years.
But all these are distractions from the real figure: what percentage of sales increase will Melbourne’s retailers enjoy as a result of the fashion week? Or, put another way, what potential does the event have to get Melburnians shopping again? After all, that’s wholly what’s needed. These points are still unclear. While they don’t go unaddressed (in launching the fashion week the city’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was at pains to acknowledge that the city’s retailers are doing it tough) they certainly haven’t been answered either. Instead, the strict use of only ‘healthy looking models’ this year has been stated as one of the things that will help get us all out shopping. Hardly. Even when talking of the ability for people to buy what’s shown on the catwalk, there’s still no revelation as to how that will be made possible. Or easier. After all, it’s not enough for us as consumers to see something on the catwalk and then have to go searching for it by way of a stockist’s phone number: we have to be guided from what’s in front of us on a catwalk to where we can purchase in a store. Through smart phone apps and new media, that’s something that’s never been easier. But as yet there’s no talk of a new approach to the week that will be better suited to converting those watching the shows from passive spectators to passionate shoppers. And that is a conversion that is integral in these times.
The Melbourne fashion week takes place this year between 5 and 11 September. Model Sophie Van Den Akker has been announced as the ‘face’ of the week, with personality Dannii Minogue a well chosen ambassador. You can see the promotional photo shoot featuring both Van Den Akker and Minogue by clicking on the thumbnails below and browsing through the gallery.