Every evening, as the sun descends upon the dry, crimson crust of the Pilbara region in the northern reaches of Western Australia, thousands of the most affluent, influential, economic minds Australia has to offer are consumed by thoughts of the riches she has yet to yield.
Western Australia is in the grip of a decade-long resource boom that has not only facilitated unprecedented population growth, but is also credited with cushioning the national purse from the turbulence of global, financial instability. The fervour of this "21st century gold rush," fueled by Western Australia's seemingly inexhaustible reserves of iron ore and natural gases, shows no sign of cooling, and has inspired legions of the best and brightest from the global mining, financial and legal sectors to emigrate to this land of untold riches. As so much potential converges on the west coast of Australia, Perth, the world's most remote capital city, continues to evolve into a financial, cultural and fashion force to be reckoned with.
The breadth of fashion talent emerging from this oasis has started to gain attention on both the national and international stages with names like Amore & Sorvete, Ellery and Poppy Lissiman quickly establishing themselves as the vanguard of young Australian fashion.
What is particularly unique to Perth's fashion culture is the openly supportive and nurturing environment that has resulted from the rapid growth the industry has recently undergone. The annual Perth Fashion Festival is now fertile ground for the discovery of Australia's newest fashion exports. The festival helps to cultivate and award outstanding collections from recent design school graduates alongside established names such as S2 and Ae'lkemi. Models such as Tom Bull and Gemma Ward have emerged from such stock, as have labels One Fell Swoop and Zhivago. The casual sophistication, synonymous with Perth's sartorial style, is equally evident in the easy-going fashion collective that celebrates both its icons and its relative ingénues (such as The Butcher and The Crow designer, Elisha Quintal).
Arguably, Perth's most endearing quality is its energetic celebration of youthful disregard for formality and convention. Expressions of innovative decadence, afforded by an economy reveling in the fruits of prosperity, are obvious in the array of fashion festivities, retail communities and destination dining venues which seem to pop up on an almost daily basis. Additions such as the 140 Pop-Up Project (a "pop-up" retail community that features both cult fashion designers and local artists in the heart of the city) and the Dilettante fashion shows (seasonal showcases from Perth's premier fashion boutiques hosted by Dilettante) have bolstered the fledgling scene. Boutiques such as Poppy Lissiman Addition, Miss Brown and Hatch join the likes of Burberry, Armani and Prada, all of which have opened their doors in Perth in the last five years to capitalise on the increasingly executive spirit of the city.
Poppy Lissiman's designs reflect the bright,
Concomitant with this explosion of sartorial expression has been a revolution of Perth's cultural terrain. For a city which, until recently, was reluctant to adopt late night and Sunday retail hours, the rise of a prominent and glamorous nightlife has been both liberating and electrifying. Venues such as The Aviary (complete with Perth's largest rooftop bar, The Nest) and dining destinations like Nobu restaurant, offer Perth's new elites a chance to sample the city's previously unappreciated culinary and cultural capital. Add these to a bar and music scene that is fostering some of the most promising talent in Australia, and it is no wonder that Perth is being heralded as a likely rival to Melbourne's cultural dominance. While Perth lacks the conservative, refined fashion heritage that defines Melbourne's elegant sophistication, it exudes a sense of earthy contentment derived from a strong beach culture that has cultivated bold use of colour and a fresh, daring attitude to tailoring.
Josie Clough, creator and editor of Perth online magazine IT'S NOW COOL, believes the city's greatest source of potential is in its youthful confidence and authenticity. In the course of our interview, Josie's enthusiasm for the city she is helping redefine is irrepressible. She notes, "The cultural scene in Perth is very raw. Perth is aware of its cultural youth and doesn't try to be anything else; however, it does recognise that it has some very authentic creative talent."
Recognising its authentic creativity has been integral to the city successfully redefining itself for the 21st century. In the immediate wake of the state's catalytic resource discovery, the influx of mining personnel challenged not only the available infrastructure but also Perth's ability to promote its dynamic arts and cultural communities. As Josie described to me, "The mining and resources boom has taken Western Australia by storm and this predominantly identifies WA. It drives our economy to such a large degree that our society has become very defined by it." But she contends that the boom injected some much needed finance into the state, "giving it the financial support and thus exposure that is needed to make any new venture work. This disposable income is spent on 'luxuries' such as art and expensive clothes, which have made our creative industries really prosper."
As the resource boom continues to provide Perth with a plethora of executive emigrants earning it the title of Australia's fastest growing capital, the state's second most valuable commodity - its entrepreneurial spirit - is sure to extend Perth's golden age for years to come. The city is eager to translate this enterprising spirit into sustained cultural growth and is continually seeking methods to promote its newly established cultural community to a larger audience.
Ellery is one of Perth's most beloved
Commencing in mid-April, Perth will play host to a slew of international fashion designers for the Savoire Faire Perth Fashion Week, a prelude to the inaugural World Fashion Week, to be held in New York, 2013. This will also mark the very first showcase of indigenous Australian designers in a collaboration titled Dreamtime. This kind of acknowledgement from the international community certifies Perth's potential as a market leader and will no doubt encourage young designers to retain Perth as their creative base. As Josie postulates, "I think the rapid uptake and support felt by the various designers, photographers, musicians and so on, has made others feel more confident to enter the space and give it a shot here [in Perth]."
However, Sydney-based international trade and brand advisor Ranui Young, believes the most potent test of Perth's fashion acumen and staying power will be its ability to differentiate itself in a global arena. Upon asking Ranui what he believed international consumers seek from emerging Australian designers, he informed me that, "Most consumers around the world still see Australia as a beach and sun drenched nation. But for the serious fashion conscious consumer, they tend to look for something different or unique and this difference can vary across sub cultures."
The stock of Perth's cultural capital continues to grow in strength fueled by an enviable stream of young fashion and design talents. The veritable sartorial boom that Australia's west is cultivating is set to inspire future generations of fashion lovers to expand their horizons westward in the pursuit of alternative style icons. As Perth continues its courtship with some of the world's leading resource and financial institutions, the pressure to emerge as a mature market, capable of extrapolating sustained growth from this period of uniquely rapid expansion, should be immense. However, tempered by its dynamic and youthful culture of creative potential, Perth is sure to continue evolving into a modern goldmine.
Sign up to receive a weekly dispatch from
The Genteel is committed to delivering quality journalism, unearthing the forces shaping international fashion and design, through the lens of business, culture, society, best kept secrets and street style. As multi-dimensional and stimulating as its readers, The Genteel is the inspired destination where informed readers converge with in-depth fashion and design coverage.
A worldwide collective of contributors currently form The Genteel. On a daily basis our team dispatches thought-provoking and insightful articles from the streets of Oslo, Toronto, Beirut, Moscow, United Arab Emirates, Seoul and beyond.