Five Melbourne Fashion Designers Killing It Right Now

Melbourne fashion designer Justine Leonard gives us the skinny on the best up and coming designers in Australia's fashion capital.

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Melbourne fashion designer Justine Leonard, AKA Belair, gives us the skinny on the best up and coming designers in Australia’s fashion capital.

There are a few things that Melbourne seems to be given a blank cheque by the rest of the world (well, the world that knows it exists at any rate) for: coffee, laneways and fashion. Question the first two to anyone who’s even spent a weekend in the Victorian capital and you’ll be pelted with large rocks and left to die in the street – even when you site the award-winning coffee culture rising in Perth, or point out the fact that a laneway is just a crap little street and every city has ’em.

The third, fashion, holds a lot more water. Melbourne has been the country’s sartorial heartland since the turn of the 20th century, when people would get seriously dressed up and “do the Block” every Sunday, parading their creations between Elizabeth and Swanston Streets. Melbourne in general, and the notorious RMIT fashion and textile school in particular, has been known for consistently turning out internationally recognised, ultra creative and technical designers with an extreme leaning towards fine art.

Here’s are the Melbourne creatives I think are doing the most interesting things in the rag game this year.

Esther Stewart

More photos from last night from my collaboration with @maisonvalentino

A photo posted by Esther Stewart (@esther_stewart) on

Technically Stewart is an abstract artist, but as her distinctly modernist prints were chosen by Maison Valentino to be the cornerstone of their Autumn/Winter 2015-2016 menswear collection, I’m starting with her. Esther effortlessly galvanizes the relationship between art and fashion. Her work translated beautifully into a very architectural line under the hands of the Valentino creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, and I’d really like to see what she might do herself in a sartorial space.

When I asked her thoughts around the future of what Melbourne design might look like, she said: “Melbourne was a great place for me to be making work continues to be a great place for me to show my work. There is a strong community of artists, galleries and all the other people that help support the art industry. It is a small community that is supportive, creative and critical.”

But, she continued: “In the last year we have seen major cuts in funding to smaller arts organisation which really devastating. It’s so important for the future of our cultural identity that smaller organisation and emerging artist are support in their more experimental projects.” 

Nikki Killick

Continuing with the #humblebrag of international recognition, Nikki Killick is a conceptual fashion designer who hung her works on the small but powerful frame of Lady Gaga.

She was chosen by London’s contemporary fashion platform Not Just a Label as one of the world’s top 100 independent designers, who sent her to Italy to show her work alongside the 99 other fashion pioneers.

This is how Gaga caught wind of the RMIT graduate’s designs and went on to wear a whole bunch of gear from her graduate collection, Future-tive Nature. The featured pieces included vacuum formed plexiglass and crystal armour accessories, a 3D printed neck brace, and laser-cut quilted and embroidered leg harnesses.

Her self-titled label is a riot of extreme colour combinations and crashing pattern and texture explorations. She was also one of the first people to experiment in laser printing and relief cast latex lycra.

Lois Hazel

Bringing the more everyday ‘Melbourne look’ is Lois Hazel. She’s all about soft revisions of classic ‘Annie Hall’ basics like outsized shirt dresses and slouchy mega-cuff culottes.

Hazel honed her talent with ateliers all over the world, from Paris to New York to Amsterdam, interning with Iris van Herpen and Marchesa as well as the Dutch artist Marianne Kemp. She gets extra ‘Switched On Melbourne Creative’ points because she supports the local charity, One Girl, by donating 5 percent of her profits to their ongoing work with women and young girls in Africa.


So much love for this human @tkaymaidza ☀️ A photo posted by P A I (@helloimpai) on

Pai is a super interesting colab between Melbournians Angie Pai and Adrian Bressanutti. Young, hip and super well connected, they’ve made a swift name by dressing their friends (think Banoffee, Oscar Key Sung, and the kids from Klo music) and being well savvy when it comes to social media.

But they by no means coast by on social influence — their ’90s chic designs are interesting, well crafted and texturally diverse. Lead piece: their cubist crochet-on-net prints.


Having previously worked for the iconic likes of Christopher Kane and Perks and Mini (P.A.M), Amanda Cumming and Kate Reynolds quietly established their independent fashion label back in 2010.

Praised for their innovation and ingenuity, Pageant collections advocate an alternate vision of femininity that is fresh, fierce and current. Pieces are forged from technically sophisticated fabrics, with major aesthetic nods to sportswear.

They have a bit of a cult following established throughout Australia; getting attention for their “individual point of view” (Kellie Hush, judge and Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar) as well as a hard-won nod of approval by the amazing Susie Bubble who says: “Their collections have been going from strength to strength”

Betts knows that nothing completes a look more like the right pair of shoes, and they know shoes. Since 1892 they’ve been slinging great quality products at an affordable price.

Feature image via our good friends at Spook Magazine.