The Glamour Push

Sydney Morning Herald

Tuesday March 5, 1991

SUSAN OWENS

TOMORROW is fashion's night of nights at the World Congress Centre in Melbourne when the Fashion Industries of Australia pay homage to those designers who are judged our very best.

It's the night when everybody who is anybody in the world of design slides into cling-film sequinned dresses and shells out $165 to rub shoulders with anybody who is anybody in the world of retailing, photography and publishing. The paparazzi have a field day.

This year the wraith-like Carmen Duncan will absent herself from her New York television commitments to and hand over trophies to winners in 16 categories.

In its 20th year, the importance of the FIA awards has been bolstered with the sponsorship of a powerful fashion coalition, Vogue magazine and David Jones. Their support will muffle criticism that both the department store and the magazine are too much orientated towards European designers at the expense of local designers.

Vogue's June McCallum responded to the FIA committee's desire to involve an international judge, and flew out Italian Vogue's creative consultant, Anna Piaggi, for the November judging, adding enormous cachet. The 240 entries in the awards indicate strong support.

David Jones will inaugurate the David Jones Award for Excellence for the designer considered the best in the store. Malcom Sykes, national merchandising manager, asked a committee of six buyers to nominate their entries.

"We saw 16 ranges before narrowing the field to three finalists - Adele Palmer, Jane Lamerton and Robert Burton," says Sykes. "David Jones is getting behind this because we are occasionally accused of being an imports store, which is untrue," said Sykes, who cannot attend these fashion "Oscars" because he will be in Paris for the French ready-to-wear shows.

The night involves months of behind-the-scenes planning. John Cooper's company, Very Special Events, has chosen a black, white and silver theme for the night, and each table setting will have a glossy replica of the award in the centre, surrounded by candles.

"The emphasis will be on two things," says Cooper. "The most important people are the finalists. My first priority is to make their clothes look wonderful. The next priority is to make sure everybody has a good time."

To this end awards will be presented at the tables to avoid delays in the ceremony. The awards will not be televised. The FIA committee feels that television lighting detracts from fashion, where often mood lighting is required.

Despite criticism that putting labels against each and declaring one better than the other is a tad unfair, the FIA continues to make household names from small beginners - like Brian Rochford and Perri Cutten. Those designers, who in the past have won awards three times, have graduated to the Hall of Fame where there are now 14 members.

George Gross is a fashion veteran and member of the Hall of Fame. His clothes are consistently among top-selling Australian labels although neither he nor his sister Kathy will be at the awards tomorrow.

Tomorrow, when guests are skipping off to Melbourne's fashionable hair salons, she will be in Brisbane presenting the George Gross collection to potential clients. George will be at the drawing board concentrating his mind on summer 1992.

Malcolm Sykes, the elder statesman of Australia fashion, says he is impressed by the standard of design: "Our fashion is good when it shows typical Australian style, and there is one. It's not too overdressed, but it is based on classic lines. We're good at being ourselves. Our peculiar ability is to make understated clothes.

Finalists in the 1991 Australian Fashion Awards:

A members' day at the Sports Mirage - womenswear: Brian Rochford, Granger Australia, Seafolly Actives.

A members' day at the Sports Mirage - menswear: Brian Rochford, Neville Quist for Saville Row, Sportsman.

By the pool at the Sheraton Mirage - womenswear: Annabel Ingall, Sunseeker, Sun Up Australia.

24 Hours in the Victorian snowfields - menswear or womenswear: Brian Rochford, Francoise Esterhazy Design, Jenny Kee.

3 Days away at work and play - womenswear: Country Road, Wendy Heather, Woman by Lesley Watson.

Sunday Lunch at Jordans, Darling Harbour - womenswear: John Cavill, Perri Cutten, Sport Fashions.

A boardroom lunch - womenswear: Liz Davenport, Matthew Eager, Thomay.

A boardroom lunch - menswear: Blazer, Featherby, Sportscraft for Men.

Launching the new vintage at the Wolf Blass vineyards - womenswear: John Cavill, Perri Cutten, Walter Kristensen.

Launching the new vintage at the Wolf Blass vineyards - menswear: Country Road, Sportscraft for Men, Studio Jianni.

A day at the Golden Slipper races - womenswear: Daniel Lightfoot, Jane Lamerton, John Cavill.

A day at the Golden Slipper races - menswear: Country Road, Jon Michail, Pino Ciano Pour Homme.

Sipping Veuve Clicquot at the Hyatt on Collins - womenswear: Covers, Fiona Andrews, Mariana Hardwick.

Celebration dinner at Kable's in The Regent - womenswear: Jane Lamerton, Matthew Eager, Thomay.

A night at the Hard Rock Cafe - womenswear: Annabel Ingall, Brian Rochford, Sport Fashions.

A night at the Hard Rock Cafe - menswear: Blazer, Brian Rochford, Neville Quist for Saville Row.

The Opera Ball - womenswear: Keri Craig, Mariana Hardwick, Riece.

The Opera Ball - menswear: Jon Michail, Messini Disimor, Pino Cianno Pour Homme.

© 1991 Sydney Morning Herald

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