Sydney's week of fashion

Trends emerge at Sydney's week of fashion

Three days into a fashion week and you will begin to see certain themes and trends beginning to reveal themselves. This year, at Australian Fashion Week, a couple of strong directions have already emerged.

Perhaps in response to the international trend, many Australian designers have gone for longer lengths this season. From Lisa Ho and Zimmermann to Marnie Skillings and Kirrily Johnston, we've already seen three-quarter and full-length dresses and skirts aplenty.

In Australian fashion, this is something of a fashion revolution. We're so used to seeing short, tight, body-conscious dresses on the runway for summer that the more elegant longer length - while nothing new in the historical scheme of things - seems almost violently fresh this time around.

The longer hemline is partly inspired by the 70s mood that seems to be happening in fashion right now. Gail Elliott's label, Little Joe, riffed on the 70s boho chick look with peasant blouses, cut-off shorts and denim, and I've seen more than a few floppy 70s-style hats in the front row this week.

If one hue has dominated, it's been white, but there has also been a continuation of last summer's obsession with earthy/natural/neutral tones: beige, tan, caramel, rust and cinnamon, moving into richer hues of saffron, mustard, bronze and gold.

If that's all a bit too Earth Mother for you, the other option is bold, bright pop art colour. Talented WA designer Garth Cook presented shirt-dresses in fuchsia pink, while Lisa Ho ran the gamut of pinks, reds and oranges. But best bright colour work so far definitely goes to Karla Spetic, who mixed block colours with incredibly striking graphic prints.

Lace, fine leather and suede continue to have a strong presence on the Australian summer runway. Designers are beginning to show collections that are more trans-seasonal in nature, perhaps in an endeavour to appeal to the northern hemisphere buying market.

There's been a touch of exoticism, too, in the collections of Manning Cartell and Kirrily Johnston, who paired their North African and Grecian inspired dresses with heavy gold jewellery (enormous hoop earrings, thick cuffs and neckplates).

Orientalism is a big fashion trend right now and two designers in particular have tapped into that theme. Alex Perry presented a rather fetching floral Chinoiserie print, while Flannel worked with its first print - a Sakura cherry blossom floral.

Some of the major trends to develop are not so wearable, unless you are a size 6 teenager. Micro shorts have been a feature of this week's shows, usually paired with a preppy blouse and light blazer, but you really do need killer pins to pull this look off.

Overall there has been a wonderfully relaxed but polished, sophisticated and elegant feel to this year's collections. The days of buttock-scraping minidresses with thigh-high stripper boots seems to be over, thank god.

But one trend persists that is deeply worrying: the thinness of the runway models, who seem tinier than ever before. While voluptuous beauty and Sports Illustrated bikini model Jess Gomes sits front row attracting admiring stares - here, people, is a womanly woman who looks great in fashion - the models seem to be vanishing into thin air.

One thing that has changed a little since last year, however, is the greater ethnic diversity. Australia has an amazing group of African models, predominantly of Sudanese birth, who command attention on the catwalk.

There also seem to be more Asian models than ever before, reflecting the international modelling trend aimed at appealing to the newly cashed-up Chinese fashion market.