The real reason why Australian men can't dress well

It's pretty clear that Australian fashion has a problem with men that goes beyond television morning show presenters' ill-fitting suits, the ties of politicians and AFL football shorts.

Australian Fashion Week come and went with men barely getting a look-in through the mounds of printed Camilla coats, faded florals and borrowed Insta-porn, courtesy of I.Am.Gia.

It's no longer enough to say that there's not a strong market for menswear, with lads accounting for nearly 50 per cent of the throng outside of fashion week's Carriageworks home. Modern day dandies tried valiantly to catch the photographers' lenses in kilts, high-heeled boots, slogan T-shirts and pimp suits.

Where has all the menswear gone?

Unfortunately, the schedule didn't reflect this on-trend testosterone with only two shows dedicated solely to men's clothing and only one of those that could be called fashion.

Where were the Australian labels that many men rely on for guidance such as MJ Bale, Jac + Jack, Bassike, Patrick Johnston and Brisbane favourite The Cloakroom?

All hope rested on the slender shoulders of Melbourne designer Blair Archibald, who executed tailored and trend-driven essentials with an original approach that will appeal to fashion-forward Australian consumers. An eye for quality fabrication and directional details made Blair the last man standing.

International buyers took notice and IMG Models representative Aaron Newbill was ready to snap up the collection. "It was worth coming out here to see talent like that," Newbill said. "I'd wear everything from that show."

Shots fired, some misses

Reactions to other labels on the schedule were more muted. Justin Cassin presented a collection of basics that failed to compete with the headline thirst of influencer and eyebrow enthusiast Josh Heuston on the runway.

It girl favourite I.Am.Gia punctuated their Tom Ford for Gucci aesthetic of low-slung hipsters and bikini tops to show menswear that was a confusing cross between New Kids on The Block's wardrobe (the later years) and an International Male catalogue.


Fortunately, Akira Isogawa tipped the scales back in men and fashion's favour with a collection that included unisex pieces, fitting into the spirit of gender neutrality currently wafting around the borders of the track-suited mainstream.

"I am my own fit model," Isogawa says. "I wear everything from the collection to see how it moves and feels. So the pieces can be worn by everyone."

Not everyone, has the cojones to carry off a pink pin-tucked shirt or metallic pleated skirt, so where are the corporate wardrobes for Collins Street professionals or Barangaroo bankers?

Salvation from the south

Perhaps it's a Sydney thing, with hope lurking in the far-off wings of Melbourne, with designers such as Chris Ran Lin who featured in the NextGen program.

Lin's bold red military coats, slouchy yet slender grey trousers add the right amount of wonder to wearability. Fellow Melburnians, such as streetwear brand Amxander and snappy suit specialists Mndatory, are hopefully the future of fashion week, having been nurtured by Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival's National Designer Award as finalists.

It's time for Australian fashion week to find a way of opening the door to menswear and men, even those not wearing high-heeled boots.