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A model walks the runway at the Mercedes-Benz Presents Maticevski show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 17 Collections at The Cutaway, Barangaroo Reserve in Sydney, Australia. |  © Caroline McCredie/Getty Images)
A model walks the runway at the Mercedes-Benz Presents Maticevski show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 17 Collections at The Cutaway, Barangaroo Reserve in Sydney, Australia. | © Caroline McCredie/Getty Images)

The 10 Most Iconic Fashion Designers From Australia

Picture of Ellie Griffiths
Updated: 22 November 2016
Fashion isn’t just about Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen; many fashion designers have come from humble beginnings who have made their name internationally known due to their eye for fashion. We’ve discovered the iconic Australian fashion designers who don’t just do fashion, they are fashion.

 

Alex Perry

Australia’s most glamorous designer, Alex Perry created magnificent gowns ready for the red carpet. This Sydney-born designer, named Australia’s premier Couturier graduated from the prestigious East Sydney Fashion Design Studio in 1984, followed by the opening of his first atelier in Kensington, Sydney, in 1992. Since then his jewelled corsets, dramatic gowns and sexy sheaths have become his trademark signature, boasting an impressive clientele including Megan Gale, Jackie O, Gigi Hadid, Natalie Portman, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna. Not only does Perry produce highly-anticipated feminine silhouettes, but since the inaugural Mercedes Australian Fashion Week in 1995, his shows have evolved into what is now known as ‘the most glamorous show of the week’.

 

Sarah-Jane Clarke & Heidi Middleton (Sass and Bide)

Established by Australian-born friends Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton in 1999, their label Sass and Bide has become iconic, designing strong, obscure and beautiful garments. From ready-to-wear fashion to leather and denim, and their exclusive gallery pieces, they have evolved from an ‘underground phenomenon to a cult label of international fame’. Originally selling their customised denim along Portobello Road in London, their first seasonal collection was shown at the Mercedes Australian Fashion Week in 2001, followed by annual showings in Fashion Weeks from London to New York.  With a great emphasis on graphic prints and innovative cuts, these designers draw their inspiration from an extensive archive that has attracted attention across the world.

 

Nicky and Simone Zimmermann

From high fashion swimwear to carefree yet sophisticated resort wear, Sydney-born sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann launched their label, Zimmerman, in 1991, followed by the opening of their first store in Sydney, in 1992. Debuting their delicate prints and quality fabrics they debuted at the 1996 Australian Fashion Week where they proceeded to build a fashion empire. With stores across Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, the sisters have been awarded many awards including Swimwear Designer of the Year at Australian Fashion Week (1999) and Best Swimwear Brand at Prix de Marie Claire (2005) for their ability to push ‘new design and technical boundaries’. Making their way from selling their garments in Sydney’s Paddington Markets in the early 1990s to becoming an icon on New York’s catwalks, Zimmermann has become a highly sought-after label.

 

Camilla and Marc Freeman

A local star in contemporary and elegant womenswear is brother-sister duo Camilla Freeman-Topper and Marc Freeman. Creating sophisticated tones that reflect the Australian lifestyle, the Sydney-born duo first launched their collections at the Australian Fashion Week in 2003. Becoming a fast favourite, sought-after both locally and internationally their signature products — classic tailoring, separates and luxe party wear — have built a stylish fan base including Kirsten Dunst, Kristen Stewart, Rose Byrne and Kate Bosworth. Featuring colourful prints and unique details, they broadened their horizons with the launch of their swimwear collection in 2007 and their ready-to-wear line in 2012.

 

Toni Maticevski

Creating a modern and unique innovative brand that strays from the on-trend to commerciality, Melbourne-born Toni Maticevski, is a renowned Australian designer celebrated globally. Having first launched his brand, Maticevski, in 1999, he has since become a regular at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Sydney, Australia and New York. With a balanced look on both art and fashion Maticevski has previously collaborated with dance institutions from Adams Ballet Lab to The Australian Ballet, creating unique costumes and designs for performances and campaigns respectively. Maticevski holds great attention to detail and is very hands-on in designing and creating his ready-to-wear label, alongside his elegant one-off commissions. Juxtaposing elegance and manipulation of the traditional silhouettes, this Melbourne-based fashion designer sure knows how to dress the female body.

A model walks the runway at the Mercedes-Benz Presents Maticevski show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 17 Collections at The Cutaway, Barangaroo Reserve in Sydney, Australia. | © Caroline McCredie/Getty Images

A model walks the runway at the Mercedes-Benz Presents Maticevski show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 17 Collections at The Cutaway, Barangaroo Reserve in Sydney, Australia. | © Caroline McCredie/Getty Images

 

Kym Ellery

Widely known for reinventing the vintage silhouette, Perth-born designer Kym Ellery launched Ellery in 2007. From the most isolated city in the world, Kym continued her studies in London before moving to Sydney where she became known after Trevor Stones — a stylist at Vogue — photographed a pair of glitter tights she had previously created. Ellery became a desirable brand featuring tailoring inspired by the 70s, and worn by style icons such as Elle Fanning, Rihanna, Solange Knowles and Cate Blanchett. Originally starting her fashion career as an editor at Australia’s magazine Russh, Ellery has since been featured in major publications from Vogue Australia to Harper’s Bazaar Australia for her Sydney-made designs featuring innovative textures developed in Switzerland and Italy.

 

Collette Dinnigan

Starting as a lingerie designer in 1990, after producing French-inspired underwear for her friends, Collette Dinnigan moved onto designing blouses and evening trousers. Originally South African born, Collette grew up in New Zealand before moving to Australia where she launched herself into the fashion industry, opening her first retail store in Paddington, Sydney in 1992. This store became a go-to destination for delicate lace pieces and beautiful lingerie-style dresses, gaining a large following within Australia and overseas as well. In 1995, Collette was the ‘first-and-only Australian’ designer to be requested to participate in the Paris’ Prêt-a-Porter (ready-to-wear) Fashion Week, in launching her own ready-to-wear collection. Further launching an Enfant collection, inspired by the birth of her daughter, in 2004 and a Bridal collection in 2007, Collette has been widely recognised for her bridal wear and flirtatious feminine gowns that are highly sought-after by the likes of Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts and Halle Berry.

 

Carla Zampatti

A high-end designer with big dreams and a determined attitude from a very young age, Italian-born Carla Zampatti arrived in Australia at the age of nine and has since become one of Australia’s most influential fashion designers. Making a national launch in 1967, followed by the establishment of Carla Zampatti Ltd. in 1970 and the opening of her first boutique in Surry Hills in 1972, Carla was one of the first Australian designers to expand her collections to swimwear in 1973, as well as sunglasses and perfumes. Capturing the women’s market, Carla was offered the rare honour to design the 1985 Ford Laser and the 1987 Laser and Meteor cars that sold exceptionally well. Receiving the highest award in the Australian Fashion Industry – Australian Fashion Laureate – in 2008, it’s easy to see her pure talent and the passion she has for this industry, still evident today.

Carla Zampatti | © Eva Rinaldi / Flickr // Zampatti SS16 | Courtesy of Carla Zampatti

 

Dion Lee

With great attention to detail, the ‘most critically lauded, and awarded, fashion innovator to emerge from Australia’ debuted his collection at the Australian Fashion Week in 2009. Dion Lee is committed to designing cutting-edge garments for the working woman, as well as all the party girls. In 2010, this Sydney-born designer was also the first designer to ever stage a runway presentation at the iconic Sydney Opera House. As a result of such optimism, international acclaim and commercial support in both Australia and international countries resulted, rapidly growing his brand in a short period of time.

Dion Lee | © Eva Rinaldi / Flickr // Dion Lee RESORT '17 | Courtesy of Dion Lee

Dion Lee | © Eva Rinaldi / Flickr // Dion Lee RESORT ’17 | Courtesy of Dion Lee

 

Lisa Ho

Taught to sew from the age of four, Albury-born Lisa Ho also started her fashion career on a stall in the Paddington Markets before making it to the international stage. Launching her label in the early 1980s, Lisa designs clothes that are required in every aspect of the modern woman’s life, from their working lives to the most glamorous of occasions. In the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, Lisa’s position in the Australian fashion industry was celebrated in a segment in the opening ceremony, alongside worldwide recognition for designing the gown that Olivia Newton-John wore to welcome the athletes. Worn by the famous, including Jennifer Lopez, Elle Macpherson, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Delta Goodrem, Lisa has also been privately collecting vintage clothing and fabrics since the age of 15. She has estimated her private antique collection to hold close to 18,000 pieces.