Australia has long captivated the U.S. market with its free-spirted attitude, unique culture and natural wonders. And it is those qualities (and more) that are captured in the collections of some of Australia’s leading women’s fashion brands.
Coterie, the New York City-based women’s trade show for elevated contemporary apparel, accessories, and footwear brands, has long been the first stop in the U.S. for Australian brands.
“Coterie has a long history of featuring Australian brands, and we are especially grateful to be the market platform of choice in New York for some of the best,” said Tom Nastos, Coterie/Informa Markets chief commercial officer.
The brands’ effortless, cool designs resonate with the show’s premium attendees, while their summery collections time well for resort season buys. “Resort wear brands were the first to make their mark at Coterie,” Nastos added. “Those Aussie brands are still in demand, and the southern hemisphere weather coincides with resort delivery timelines.”
Elk, Ksubi, Misha, Quay Australia, Rolla’s Jeans and Sol Sana are among the roster of Aussie brands that are exhibiting at the upcoming Coterie event, Feb. 11-13 at the Jacob Javits Center, offering a full scope of products—from swim and sunglasses to denim.
Denim down under
Part of Australian brands’ appeal in the U.S. is the laid-back design aesthetic—a look that the West Coast shares. “The resurgence of pop culture and fashion interest in L.A. has popularized the seasonless lifestyle approach to dressing that we also see from several Australian brands, and the easy denim looks as part of that,” Nastos said.
Rolla’s Jeans sums up the carefree look Nastos described, with its retro-inspired denim collection. The nostalgic feeling that has shaped millennial-centric fashion is at the core of the brand’s aesthetic—from full, bell-bottom jeans to vintage-looking campaigns.
Rolla’s current bestsellers, like corduroy flare jeans and 100 percent cotton high-rise straight-fit jeans, smack of the ’70s and ’90s. At Coterie, Courtney Crofton, from Rolla’s U.S. marketing team, says the brand will introduce an ’80s throwback vibe to its collection with special suiting pieces. The brand is also rolling out a campaign with influencer Sophia Richie.
While the on-trend designs, sustainable washes and accessible price points have earned Rolla’s spots at U.S. retailers like Nordstrom, Revolve and Shopbop, Crofton said it is the brand’s Aussie roots that give it a unique brand proposition in a sea of blue jeans.
“We’re a denim brand that doesn’t take ourselves too seriously,” she said, noting that the brand hasn’t conformed to “American norm.” Rolla’s, she added, exudes Australian women’s confidence and an easy-going attitude—authentic qualities for a brand that can’t be faked.
Authenticity is a value near and dear to Elk, an ethically designed apparel and accessories brand from Melbourne. The family-owned company was founded in 2004 on the belief in creativity, innovative design and an authentic approach that puts people and the environment first.
“Our design ethos is one where simplicity and sustainability meet innovation,” Marnie Goding, Elk co-founder and creative director, said. “Myself, along with our creative team rely on the understanding that great design need not be complicated and it is within this intersection of refined simplicity that we have defined our own unique aesthetic.”
The brand’s denim range includes versatile fits like skinny and boyfriend jeans, as well as fashion items like coated skinnies and exaggerated wide-leg jeans. The ready-to-wear line spans printed dresses and tops to minimalist, monochromatic separates. Elk’s designs feature signature details like asymmetry, bold patterns and textured materials using quality raw materials like organic cotton sourced from all over the world.
Elk outlined this process in its 2019 transparency report, which Goding said was the culmination of more than four years of work behind the scenes. “We felt the time was right to step up and share our journey and we have been greatly encouraged by not only the response from our customers but the industry as a whole,” she said.
The brand was honored for its sustainability efforts with the 2019 IMG Australian Fashion Laureate Award for Sustainable Innovation and was recognized as a key player in the Australian fashion industry for pioneering sustainable practices and demonstrating leadership in sustainability.
“We are very conscious of our impact on the environment and the people who make our designs both locally and globally and what type of world we are leaving to our children,” Goding said. “We have been encouraged by the rise in consciousness about how the fashion industry needs to take personal responsibility for the impact of production.”
Australia’s natural beauty and culture is what ultimately inspires Elk. “Our unique landscape and distinctive environment create an endless source of inspiration,” Goding said. “Our culture is rich and diverse and this is weaved into the very heart of what we do from our designs and material choice through to our in-house designed patterns.”
The collection that will be at Coterie, Goding said, pays homage to the “handiwork of our ancestors by transforming traditional tapestry, knitting and painting into contemporary forms.” The result is a collection that offers a modern narrative based on traditional techniques.
“Coterie is a great opportunity to showcase our unique designs to a receptive audience and personally share our story and ethical and sustainable journey with current and new customers,” she added.
A helping hand
Since the start of the year, Australia has captured the world’s attention for more dire reasons as wildfires continue to sweep over millions of acres of land. Fashion brands and retailers from around the world have shown their support by donating proceeds to Australian rescue and relief efforts.
In January, Rolla’s was among the more than 30 leading Australian retailers that donated 100 percent of their online profits for one day to the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund. In a separate fundraiser, Elk raised $6,000 AUD ($4,050), which it matched, donating a total of $12,000 AUD ($8,095) to the Australian Red Cross.
Coterie is doing its part to help, too, throwing its support behind Australian businesses by initiating special promotions and creating dedicated content. The trade show teamed with photographer Nick Tsindos and stylist Thomas Townsend to create an exclusive look book shot south of Sydney—where the bush meets the beach—that showcases products by many of the exhibitors.
The trade show, Nastos added, is also making a donation to the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund. “[We offer] support to Australian brands and retailers who are making the trip during this challenging time,” he said.