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Maddy Cronn | April 5, 2022

The Melbourne Fashion Festival! NOT to be confused with Melbourne Fashion Week. This city-wide fashion celebration commences alongside the fashion world’s major weeks in Paris, London, and NYC. Unlike Melbourne Fashion week, which features more conceptual tones, the Melbourne Fashion Festival sheds a concentrated spotlight on the creations of Australian and Melbourne designers. Each event in the week showcases a specific niche of Melbourne’s fashion creatives. This is truly exciting because of the insane looks on the loose, but also because the festival is letting everyone know what Melbourne has to offer as an up-and coming fashion capital of the world—watch your back Paris!

For a little rundown of the details: the festival ran from March 3-12 with a smattering of themed runways. Starting with a high-profile bang, famous Australian designer Strateas Carlucci’s runway stunned at the Timber Yards. The festival trickled into Federation Square where most shows set up shop, before moving into Collingwood Yards, and was concluded at the Melbourne Park. This citywide itinerary had guests traipsing around the neighborhoods, and now we at Farrago are joining the exploration! 

A Look at the Independent Runway

The Independent Runway presented by Fashion Journal (@fashionjournalmagazine) gets down to the real meat of local Melbourne fashion up-and-comers, and in a way, this runway gives us a sneak peek into the future of this city’s fashion destiny. Corny, I know, but the stuff we see here is going to be the next Melbourne “look”. Are we ready? To start the show, guests milled about the Yards astonishingly dressed, and hyper-aware of how completely otherworldly they looked. Photographers snapped shots and scurried around, careful to not poach each-others shot, and were quick to give you a nasty glare if you were in their way. This is fashion! Curious and a little on edge about what the next generation of Melbourne designers have in store for us, I cannonballed into the murky waters of the media pit. The lights dim, otherworldly beings take seats, and the future is here!

Immediately, blaring music slaps you down and you have just enough time to get up and see

the first look make its way down. I admired the pacing, giving us some time to settle into the unknown of this year’s cutting edge looks. Clean cut geometric lines are a favorite giving the look an angular and spatial feel. Stella Vendetta’s razor-sharp lines paired with fun little polka dots let us know that while this look will slice you, it will not be without whimsy. I found this take on the classic angular suit refreshing along with the dichotomy between the serious and the silly. Hats off to Stella Vendetta for reworking classic Italian style.

Now that we have eased in, the runway takes a leap into the future of futurism, playing off the hints of futurist fashion we are only just starting to see out in the wild, Tolé Studios brings the strappy, gaping, protruding, and blinding colors of today’s modern earthship look to the spotlight. Here, the models levitated forward with their garments clinging and flowing out behind them, their tendrils catching the wind. I was stunned by this collection’s extravagant take on the practical and I was surprised with how intense its hand was on the pulse of today’s contemporary looks. 

This next collection actually made my jaw drop. Born from the hand of Nathaniel Youkhana, in his namesake brand ‘Youkhana’, his collection left the crowd gasping for air! Fashion festival was graced with Youkhana’s designs for the first time this season and we could not be happier to have him. Youkhana has been an independent designer for five years now after quitting his job to pursue his passion full time and his personal commitment to each one of his garments is clear in their intricate beauty. Youkhana’s style is iconic in its construction centered around color, strength, and individuality. Each piece is painstakingly crafted with hand braided coils and ringlets falling in winding patterns and blinding color. What is so singular about Youkhana’s design is his futuristic approach to the classic woven garment using the strength of the materials and pairing it with contemporary draping. You seriously haven’t seen this before.

First out was a garment in fluorescent pink rope twined and snaked around the model in an intricate burst of heavy color. The pure weight of the garments Youkhana has created really has the power to imprint on spectators for life. I had the chance to speak with Youkhana to get a sense of his vision. I found that his inspiration came from a need for strength and structure in his life. And he wanted it in color.

Youkhana speaks about his designs with a look of love in his eyes. “I think that color evokes so much emotion, and it’s such a celebration. You know, fashion is always quite mute, I just think that beauty comes from color, comes from expression. In a time like this, I needed to look at color all day instead of looking at nothing.”

And then the showstopper.

Anything less than profanity does not do this look justice. Holy shit.

The raw beauty and visual impact of this look from Youkhana was completely all consuming. His vision of an inspiring and striking piece evoking emotion and celebration is realised in the power which emanates from this piece.

When asked how he wants people to feel wearing his designs, Youkhana said, “Oh, beautiful, extravagant, extra, stunning, amazing, all of the beautiful words.”

Festivals such as these are so important to a city to celebrate local creativity, but to also further establish Melbourne as one of the iconic fashion capitals of the world. It is because of this that I am so fixated on the work of Youkhana as the power and emotion behind this innovative style which is impossible to ignore. Its individuality and breathtaking vision have the potential to skyrocket the future of Melbourne Fashion and help define its essence for a new generation.

Every place known for its fashion has a certain feeling about its creations that can instantly be identified and has its own gravitational pull. With the monumental designs of Melbournian designers like Youkhana on the forefront of this city’s creative scene, Melbourne’s unique quintessence as a fashion capital of the world is only on the rise!

Image Credit: Maddy Cronn

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Maddy Cronn

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