The following article was published in the Daily Telegraph on 18th April 2006:
On a high street saturated with high-fashion, with copies at rock-bottom prices, shopping for clothes when you’re over 30 is all too often a disheartening experience. The secret is to look Down Under.
Australians are known for their easy-going nature and this is reflected in their fashion. “People don’t really buy winter clothes, as summer out there lasts for seven to eight months,” says Yasmin Sewell, the Australian senior buyer at Browns Focus in London. “We want to look healthy and beautiful, and we want to be comfortable.”
Comfort for many British women is often at the cost of looking stylish, which is why the Australian invasion is such a godsend, especially for summer. Australian designers know how to combine fluid, flattering shapes with fabrics that are both comfortable and feminine.
Erin Mullaney, a fashion buyer at Selfridges, believes it’s down to their active, outdoorsy lifestyle. ”This is reflected in the fabrics they use (jersey, cotton and chiffon), which move with your body and are easy to go from day to night, or casual to smart,” she says.
One label that has already been snapped up by Whistles (08707 704301) is Metalicus. Vests, cardigans and T-shirts are made from stretch fabrics mixed with wool, silk or cotton. They look fabulous layered together and worn with jeans or cotton trousers. And yes, they’re affordable, with prices starting at £35 for a top.
Body (020 7287 3841) is designed by a dancer, and the label’s dresses, blouses, wraps and trousers are flattering for both slim and fuller figures. The colour palette of this Australian brand is sophisticated (eau-de-Nil, pale lime, browns and beige) and cotton jersey, sheer cottons and stretchy knits are used. Cotton-jersey wrap dresses cost from £80 and a very pretty, cotton ”Boulevard” print dress is £215.
Some of the best dresses around are Australian designed. They’re not cheap (expect to pay upwards of £150), but for this you have an outfit that will look good for more than one season. “They fill a niche for dresses in bright prints that are often difficult to find in Britain,” says Mullaney. Labels to look out for are Cool Change, a favourite of Catherine Zeta-Jones. Designed by Rhonda Scholes, a New York-based Australian, the clothes are sold at the London shop Coco Ribbon (0845 456 8880).
Alternatively, Ginger & Smart has a floral print collection – with rope fabric ties – made from floppy silk. “When I was buying last season I was looking for the perfect dress and these have been a winner,” says Sewell. They are fabulous with heels for a party, or with flip-flops on holiday. Find them at Browns Focus (020 7514 0063).
Zimmermann is also worth looking out for, although it is more expensive – think upwards of £195. This is the price of a pretty, tablecloth blue, cross-back dress (Selfridges 0870 8377377 and Austique 020 7376 4555).
Figures show that clothing exports from Australia to the UK have more than doubled over the past five years, with shops such as Austique, Antipodium and Selfridges actively promoting Australian fashion. Even if our climate lets us down, what we wear this summer may well be what’s hot Down Under.
Comfort zone: covetable labels such as Willow (main picture), Josh Goot (left) and Metalicus (far left) are becoming more widely available in this country Getty images; AFP; christine boyd
- Emma Hill writes for ‘In Style’ magazine.
Seven of the best: chic Antipodean labels
Goot uses cotton jersey to create a softer, more relaxed version of the classic trench coat and blazer. “You can even throw them in the washing machine,” says Sewell, who recommends them for travelling. From £195, they look good on larger frames (Browns Focus, South Molton Street, London W1; 020 7514 0063).
Already a hit with Naomi Watts and Elle MacPherson, the label produces vintage-inspired prints,1970s-style dresses and kaftans. From £150 to £300. Mullaney of Selfridges says Lisa Ho looks good on “all ages and shapes” (Selfridges: 0870 8377377; www.selfridges.com).
One of Australia’s hottest labels, Willow is known for its delicate colours and intricate embroidery. The brand is aimed at women who want to make an impact. Prices are high – think £300-plus (Selfridges, as before; Feathers, 176 Westbourne Grove, London W11; 020 7243 8800).
The range includes sundresses and tops with drop waists in a mix of chiffon and satin, in creams, whites and browns. Necklines are often plunging. These designs suit slimmer figures (Austique, 330 King’s Road, London SW3; 020 7376 4555 and www.laurence-pasquier.com).
Affordable swimwear in wearable, sporty shapes, plenty of sizes and bright colours. Styles come in bold prints, often with metallic buckles, and combine contemporary design with practicality. Expect to pay about £70 for a bikini (www.figleaves.com).
Fabulous swimwear and summer dresses. Bikinis can be bought separately (tops from £40, bottoms from £25). Shapes to suit most women (Austique, as before; Coco Ribbon, 133 Sloane Street, London SW1, 020 7730 8555; www.figleaves.com).
Youthful bikinis with stunning, summery patterns. Some designs have frills and layers, others have simple, 1980s-style bandeau tops, which tie round the neck. Bikinis cost from £95 and are more suited to smaller figures (sizes 8 to12 only; Coco Ribbon, as before; www.figleaves.com).