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MSFW Emerging Designer Series: Tomorrow's Heroes Runway

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Published September 1st 2012
Who are the Emerging Fashion Designers of Melbourne?

Image courtesy of City of Melbourne

This year Melbourne Spring Fashion Week (MSFW) will transform the city into a destination and stage for 7 days of fashion events, exhibitions and shows. Lionel's Melbourne is set to dress up and party down from Monday, 3 September until Sunday, 9 September with films on fashion's recent history, the rise of global brands, fashion shows and visionaries, the business of fashion, latest local trends at City Square, the 4 fresh faces, exhibitions and shopping.

I am proud to support MSFW which is embracing Melbourne's rising fashion stars through the Emerging Designers Series. Local and visitors are encouraged to "Be inspired" by MSFW Tomorrow's Heroes Runway Show in Melbourne Town Hall. You can face-to-face with the new generation of fashion wave-makers. I caught up with the City of Melbourne about our emerging talent set to shape the future of fashion.

Catherine Leon

The talent works of a seamstress aunt influenced Catherine Leon's journey into the fashion world. Her flair was moulded at RMIT where she perfected her skills in pattern making and her talent was given wings at the prestigious Melbourne School of Fashion where she specialised in product development and design.

Image courtesy of City of Melbourne

Her eponymous label was launched in 2010. Designed and constructed in Australia, her first collection 'Element of Freedom' introduced in 2011 was praised for luxe clean lines, fine detailing, high quality fabrication, impeccable alignment of prints, versatile offering of wardrobe staples and their overall accessibility in each piece, winning her the Debut Apparel Award presented at Fashion Exposed in 2011. The end result is a burgeoning label that boasts celebrity followers and the support of some of the country's most prestigious boutiques. Today, Catherine Leon is known for her contemporary and urban chic Australian fashion, dedicated to unique prints, a tonal colour palette and softly draped silhouettes.


Kinoak is a fashion line by Melbourne-based Amie Darragh, launched in 2011 after 8 years helping P.A.M (Perks and Mini) to establish their design studio. Born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, Amie studied design and patternmaking at the Auckland University of Technology and trained in the workrooms of Karen Walker and Kate Sylvester, before relocating to Melbourne to broaden her experience.

Image courtesy of City of Melbourne

Amie believes in creating fashion in a thoughtful way and keeping standards high. She combined the varsity style seen in the US TV show 'Friday Night Lights' with references to glaciers, winter sports and vintage outdoor-wear to produce her first Kinoak collection, 'Rookie' AW12. The second collection 'Greenhouse' SS13 took a different direction, blending visual influences of vibrant flora, garden parties and 60's experimental LP covers. Kinoak represents Amie's past and in many ways defines her future, combining what she's learnt with what she loves.

Livia Arena

Image courtesy of City of Melbourne

Melbourne based designer Livia Arena created her eponymous label in 2010 with a focus on creating subtle and intriguing basics that are well-made and endure for season after season, so much so that they become favourites in wardrobes of the wearers. Debuting her first collection at L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival in 2011, the Livia Arena label has since gained following and is now available in premium boutiques throughout Victoria and Australia. You can expect intelligent adaptations of classic styles, and well-constructed garments designed and made in Melbourne.

Neo Dia

Image courtesy of City of Melbourne

Launched at MSFW 2010, Neo Dia is the result of collaboration of RMIT graduates and buddies Gavin Lowes and Becky Chua who focus on modern clothing that make women feel confident, empowered and luxurious. The duo combine sharp tailoring techniques and clean silhouettes with inspiration drawn from renowned architectures like Gehry and Bauhaus for their prêt-à-porter collections. In their debut, these young talent dressed model Andrej Pejic and musician Kimbra. Their second collection 'RythmicAlgorythm' was unveiled at Amsterdam Fashion Week. The highlight of Neo Dia's stellar rise was being featured by Vogue Italia, who described Neo Dia as 'a new day for Australian Fashion', and Harpers Bazaar (Australia) who listed Neo Dia as one of the defining moments for MSFW 2011.

Orri Henrisson

Melbourne based label Orri Henrisson has already been called one of the most promising emerging menswear brands in Australia. Designer Henry Ng commenced his fashion journey in search of a label that shared his 'upbeat' vision but he soon realised the stark absence of diversity in Australian menswear. He decided to fill the gap in the market by redefining menswear away from the grim black-on-black convention. Henry draws inspiration from music, graphic design, architecture and photography and other designers like Junya Watanabe. He visualises how his garments will look on a certain musician or in a photograph.

Image courtesy of City of Melbourne

His first collection was a full-frontal assault of exciting street-wear inspired separates and subsequent collections continued to offer fun, casual, smart and dressy aesthetics for men that won him the Peroni Young Designer 2012 runner-up award. The growing popularity of Henry's label has seen its designs worn by Owen Pallett, Kyle Linahan and Josh Thomas, featured in GQ, Men's Style and Frankie magazine, and stocked by Alice Euphemia, Pigeonhole, Comeback Kid, Kids In Berlin and Estate Of Mind.


Here in Melbourne, Amanda Cumming and Kate Reynolds work collaboratively on styling, costume design, and their menswear label, PAGEANT, with a wealth of experience earned in Australia and the UK. In Australia, the duo have worked at PAM (aka Perks and Mini); as stylists and costume designers on film clips for Cut Copy and Midnight Juggernauts; styled alongside Yasmin Sewel for Westfield's SS11/12 campaign 'The Collaboration' and coordinated the wardrobe for a short fashion film directed by Luci Schroder for Nick Knight's renowned fashion website SHOWStudio. In UK, they spent two years honing their technical and creative skills in London for several labels. Amanda trained at menswear designer Tim Soar and women's wear designer Christopher Kane while Kate exceled at menswear designer Cassette Playa and Christopher Shannon.

Image courtesy of City of Melbourne

Thursday Sunday

Image courtesy of City of Melbourne

Thursday Sunday is the result of the close friendship between Iris Cuaresma and Mara Tonetti, who successfully launch their label in the summer of 2009. Mentored by Gabriella Tonetti, an established dressmaker, Iris and Mara combined business mindedness, graphic design, a strong appreciate for cut and quality and shared inspiration into creating designs that are aesthetically nostalgic, luxurious and yet refreshing. As emerging designers, Thursday Sunday have already secured their ambiguous yet classic sensibility.
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