Fashion afficionados (from left) Stephanie Smart, Karen Webster, Karen Ezart and Wendy Powitt at a conference lunch in Broken Head. They discussed emerging trends and the future of the fashion industry on the Northern Rivers with a view to creating a representative body.
Fashion afficionados (from left) Stephanie Smart, Karen Webster, Karen Ezart and Wendy Powitt at a conference lunch in Broken Head. They discussed emerging trends and the future of the fashion industry on the Northern Rivers with a view to creating a representative body. Marc Stapelberg

Bohemian chic the new black

WORLD domination was at the top of the agenda at a gathering of fashion designers near Byron Bay yesterday.

And if the calibre of the keynote speaker was anything to go by, they are deadly serious.

Karen Webster, the darling of the Melbourne fashion world and the woman responsible for putting the internationally-renowned Melbourne Fashion Festival on the map, spoke about design, marketing and a collective vision for the local industry.

The seminar and luncheon were organised by former fashion and textile designer, now fashion broker, Wendy Powitt.

Ms Powitt traded her own multi-million dollar international fashion design business for a Byron sea change and now devotes much of her time to developing the local industry.

“We could easily become knowninternationally on the fashion circuit as a fashion destination,” she said.

“There definitely is a style to the region – I call it bohemian chic – and it's absolutely connecting with the fashion flavour around the world, so it's just the perfect moment to launch ourselves into the arena.

“My role has been to dig out the local industry and look at ways toimprove business through mentoring, and make their fashion dreams become a reality.”

The initiative was funded by local, State and Federal assistance through the Northern Rivers Arts and Creative Industries Strategy, NSW Industry and Investment and RegionalDevelopment Australia.

Ms Powitt said that while there were some ‘absolute stars' on the local scene, there wasn't the depth of business to sustain the number of people that were working locally, which was disheartening for many.

“The marketing needs a more collaborative regional approach and that's where we come in,” she said.

“We've seen that happening with the local food (industry) network, which has really worked for them, and that model could work just as well for the fashion industry.

“We've got so many international tourists and celebrities coming to the region that they could be our vanguard to the world.

“If we can get our fashion product in front of these tourists, they'll become our ambassadors and that will return back to us.”

Ms Powitt's dream is to create an industry association, the purpose of which would be to nurture and develop the industry and foster collaboration between designers for the purpose of group marketing.

“It's all there, it's ready to go, so it's just a matter of getting everyone onboard and excited, and getting some sort of shared vision

“This is what today is all about,” she said.

“We have a presentation about worldwide trends and how we can capitalise on them, and a lovely lunch before we sit down to discuss how we're going to work together to improve the local fashion business.”


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