Australian menswear designers storm the style scene

From streetwear to suiting, local designers are hitting the nail on the head when it comes to producing a menswear that is as ahead of the curve as it is raising the bar for quality.

Earlier this year, Melbourne-based duo Strateas.Carlucci made history when they became the first Australian brand to ever appear on the men's runways at Milan Fashion Week. Although this was just another notch in the belt of an illustrious career having already made waves, twice, at the Holy Grail of style - Paris Fashion Week.

Add to that the recent regional winner of the International Woolmark Prize, Ex Infitas, was named as Australia's answer to Vetements by US Vogue and Sydney-based denim label Neuw appearing on the bodies of some of the biggest celebrity names, you can safely say - Aussie fashion is so hot right now.

Rundown runway

What's been the push behind this global success? It may have something to do with many of the bigger, luxury brands such as Gucci and Christian Dior adopting a more experimental approach to their latest menswear collections.

Gucci, for example – once the go-to for sophisticated menswear and sexually-charged tailoring – has instead embraced a more softer, feminine look using lace, heavy floral prints and brocade on achingly thin silhouettes.

While this may look fantastic on a runway, it's not quite the look you'd be able to incorporate into a daily wardrobe. To say that the average bloke would think twice before purchasing a salmon-hued shirt and cropped pink pants is an understatement.

Similarly for the style overhaul at Saint Laurent. Gone are the sleek, slimmed down suits in favour for a torn, grungy surf vibe that wouldn't look out of place in a thrift shop of some remote coastal getaway.

Creativity and commerce

But that's not to say that menswear can't be cutting edge - it can. But it still needs to be something men can feel confident in putting on in the morning. And this is where Australian designers are succeeding in an industry where so many others are forsaking good taste for simple shock value.

Editor-in-chief of Manuscript and judge of one of the biggest international fashion awards, The International Woolmark Prize, Mitchell Oakley-Smith says that fashion labels need to hit the right balance between marketability and a unique perspective.

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"I've talked a lot in the past about the key to a success design career being the ability to marry creativity with commerce," he says.

"Neither can really exist without the other in the realm of designer fashion. Fashion should be innovative and exciting and unique, but it also needs to be worn, and in reality, few of us wear anything terribly crazy."

Street and swim

Melbourne-based designer Blair Archibald is at the centre of this new wave of Australian menswear storming the style scene.

A disciple of the ethical fashion movement that encourages consumers to invest in garments that exist outside of fast fashion's seasonal trends, Archibald says that despite the clear strength of the local industry it has been a slow process in gaining recognition.

"For me Australia really succeeds in the street and swimwear industries which is indicative through Sydney Fashion Week," he says.

"On the whole I think men are still frightened of fashion in that there is little room to introduce new concepts and ideas but those limitations are what push designers to educate men and elevate the local industry to a level that coincides with the international market."

Riding the fashion cycle

According to Oakley-Smithy, this isn't the first time that Australian menswear designers have out-styled their European counterparts.

"I've covered menswear in Australia for a decade and seen it ebb and flow," he explains.

"Around 2008, pre-GFC, was probably the most exciting time, in retrospect. Ben Pollitt and Gareth Moody of Friedrich Gray and Chronicles of Never, respectively, were doing super interesting things with leather and that androgynous silhouette, Three Over One was producing some of the greatest denim pieces we've ever seen, Ksubi was at its international height, and smaller tailors, like Patrick Johnson, were offering something beyond the traditional off-the-rack suiting outfitters."

While some of these labels no longer exist or have been sold to international distributors, the fact remains the same - Australian menswear is continually proving itself as a force to be reckoned with. Which can only be a good thing with the increasing number of international retailers continue to encroach on the local market.

"There seems to be a shift towards men and women looking to invest back into local brands," says Archibald. "Australia is seeing a huge increase in the arrival of large international companies and I think as a result, prompts people to look at Australian designers to find more distinctive products."

Scroll through the gallery above to see the 10 Australian menswear designers daring to be different.