For the first time in its 22-year history, the prestigious National Designer Award featured four menswear brands among the five who made the shortlist. It's a coup for Australian menswear and proof that emerging fashion designers have the goods to make the sartorial cut.
While the award was won by unisex activewear label P.E. Nation, all eyes were on the new wave of menswear designers in the mix.
From the innovative knitwear of Chris Ran Lin to AMXANDER's pursuit of avant-garde excellence to MNDATORY's outwear focus for Generation Netflix, blokes were pushing the boundaries..
Chris Ran Lin
Chinese-born and Melbourne-based designer Chris Ran Lin says making the shortlist for the top prize is a coup in itself.
Known for his tailoring and magnificent use of wool and knitwear, Lin says it's time that the fashion industry focused on the local men leading the pack.
"The fact so many of us made the shortlist is proof it's an exciting time for menswear in Australia," says Ran Lin.
"It's fantastic to see that we are important. I think it's also a reflection that guys are more aware of how they're dressing and we're part of the process in educating men about how they can embrace their clothes and not to be afraid to explore new brands and fashion," he says.
Ran Lin is stocked exclusively in Lane Crawford stores in Hong Kong and China with plans to expand into Europe and USA. His latest AW18 is inspired by art deco architecture and interior design which sees him explore shade and movement from that era in a capsule that leans on a bright palette of red, blue, yellow and green knits.
"My customer is mostly based overseas and I'd like to expand in the US and Europe in the next few years. It's one step at a time," says Ran Lin who says locals can make contact with him via Instagram of his website to enquire about purchasing the new collection in Australia.
Melbourne menswear label AMXANDER came onto the scene five years ago and in 2016 was nominated for the Australian Woolmark Prize.
In the hands of design duo Jason Alexander Pang and RJ Cheng, they explore technical fibres in their AW18 collection that leans on sportswear with a modernist vibe and rebellious outerwear that's functional. They rev up their story with shades of pale blue, ox blood red and orange plus the classic staple of black, grey and off-white this season.
"With AW18 we wanted to focus on the idea of exploration. As Asian immigrants to Australia we wanted to capture a sense of finding new land," says Jason Alexander Pang.
They turn to Antarctic explorers Sir Douglas Mawson and Robert Falcon Scott for artistic vision – who according to Pang – risked all to find glory for their country.
"We resonated with their story in what we do," he says.
"We put ourselves out there to make this collection exciting and there's a romanticism you don't find in menswear that often," says Pang.
Brian Huynh gave up a career in optometry seven years ago to pursue a fashion career. His modern menswear brand MNDATORY is focused on lounge wear and outerwear – where fabric and design inform his functional collection. Dubbed Myrornas Krig [which means white noise or lack of TV reception in Swedish], his range explores what it means to be a man in the modern world.
"The proliferation of social media means we're connected more than ever before but at the same time we're more disconnected as humans," says Brian Huynh.
"It's about getting people to slow down and connect to the clothes they consume. I reference Generation Netflix," says Huynh who has a pop-up during VAMFF in the retail activation space on the Plaza until March 10 taking orders.
"This is for the guy on the lounge and needs to look good in lounge wear and deconstructed silhouettes."
The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival runs until March 18.