Australian Fashion Laureate Awards 2021

December 2, 2021

Image: IMG by Myles Kalus


On November 30, IMG announced their award winners from a who’s who of Australian fashion labels, in their annual Australian Fashion Laureate Awards. Many are names you will recognise and love.These awards recognise the achievements and excellence within the Australian fashion industry. Winners across all categories gathered at Mimi’s restaurant in Coogee for a celebratory lunch. This was the first time the fashion industry had come together since Afterpay Australian Fashion Week in June this year.

Two new awards in 2021 recognise both our Indigenous Designers and the new Carla Zampatti Award for Excellence in Leadership. This award honours those persons who have advanced the position of women in the fashion industry. The industry’s pinnacle award, The Australian Fashion Laureate Lifetime Achievement Award, recognises the growth and development of the Australian Fashion industry overall. 

This year the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award went to Linda Jackson AO. Linda is a pioneering fashion designer, artist and fashion retailer. She has partnered with Jenny Kee, designed for Oroton, collaborated with artists who hand painted fabric for her dresses and has regularly exhibited as a painter and photographer. She has lived in Arnhem Land and worked extensively with our Indigenous artists. You can find some of Linda’s striking dresses housed in the Powerhouse Museum. 

I was excited to see that my fashion friend, Grace Lillian Lee, had won the inaugural Carla Zampatti Award for Excellence in Leadership. You may remember that Grace kindly invited me to my favourite show of Fashion Week – The First Nations Fashion and Design Show, after we’d  met in the Fashion Suites. Little did I know at the time that Grace was the driving force behind this historic show. I will never forget this moment and Grace’s generosity of spirit. A well deserved first recipient of this prestigious award who has worked tirelessly to bring Indigenous Design to the fore here in Australia and beyond. 

Designer of the Year was the team from well loved label Romance Was Born – Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales. Founded in 2005, Romance Was Born launched in Paris in 2018 and is beloved by many of my fashion friends the world over. Emerging Designer of the Year was Richard Jarman from COMMAS. The first winner of the Indigenous Designer of the Year was Julie Shaw from MAARA Collective. 

Sustainable Innovation of the Year belongs to Deborah Sams and Mary Lou Ryan from bassike. I saw Mary Lou speak on a panel ‘ Fashion as a Force for Change’ at Fashion Week and was impressed by her passion and the ethos surrounding sustainability within the brand. 

Perhaps one of the best loved awards is People’s Choice which was won by Byron Bay brand, Spell. Elizabeth Abegg and Isabella Pennefather are the proud designers of beloved boho brand, Spell which has a strong following around Australia.The gorgeously fashionable statuettes won by award winners were designed and donated by Dinosaur Designs. 

The Australian Fashion Laureate provides an important platform to celebrate the success of Australia’s designers and fashion talent , while demonstrating the industry’s creativity and connectivity which can still flourish despite extraordinary challenges. The winners are chosen by the Australian Fashion Laureate Alumni, a panel of industry leaders, including media, buyers, communications professionals, creatives and designers. In a bittersweet year for fashion it was impressive to see the fashion community coming together in celebration to honour those showing excellence and innovation.

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