Melbourne. A city like any other.
Or so I thought.
Melbourne is always on the itinerary when I’m in Australia – my family is there and so we visit them in the suburbs, spending as much time catching up as we possibly can. I would guess that, in the handful of times that I’ve been to Melbourne, I’ve spent all of three days in the city; what I have seen is a sprawling metropolis of new skyscrapers and old factory buildings on either side of the Yarra River, with little else in between (bar a lot of people).
As you will already know via my social media channels, this recent trip to Melbourne was different. Not a holiday, its intention was business related (though we did manage to delay the return trip so we could see our relatives). Knowing my obsession with Australia and with fashion, I was invited to experience Melbourne Fashion Festival. I accepted, intrigued by the festival (which I’d never managed to time my trips for) and excited at the prospect of visiting my favourite country again so soon.
The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival – otherwise known as VAMFF – is a week-long celebration of Victoria’s established and emerging fashion designers, supported by Australian designers, magazines, stylists, photographers and models. It’s open to both fashion professionals and the general public, making it a great showcase for the city on a commercial level and from a tourism point of view.
This year, the festival attracted leading figures including Nicola Formichetti (Diesel), Erin Wasson (model) and Dion Lee (designer), proving just how influential the Australian fashion industry is, while the breadth of events demonstrated Melbourne’s style credentials, from breakfast seminars to runway shows and parties. Being press, I was lucky enough to be part of the seminar series, the studio visits to White Story and Gwendolynne (the best way to get to know a label), as well as beautiful dinners at Melbourne’s hottest restaurants (made all the more exciting by the Food and Wine Festival – March is a busy time for Melbourne!).
As fashion weeks tend to be, it was hectic but fabulous. VAMFF is an eclectic mix of new and established design talent, attended by some of the most stylish people across the globe (such as fashion illustrator Megan Hess, and Tess Sefton, co-founder of TheyAllHateUs). VAMFF generates an undeniable buzz in Melbourne; a force of energy, the high voltage is electrifying, the current running through the city at a speed of knots that will take your breath away, leaving you slightly shocked and drained, but entirely alive. It’s difficult to explain, but Melbourne’s city life offers a so many opportunities to enjoy life; one minute you’re meeting friends at one of the city’s amazing restaurants and bars (Melbourne has an incredibly diverse culture, resulting in great cuisine), the next you could be enjoying one of the best flat whites ever – I mean EVER – before vintage shopping in the hipster area of Fitzroy.
Not to mention that pretty, quaint beaches are just a 30 minute drive south east, while the mountains and vineyards are 30 minutes north east – even famous sites, such as the 12 Apostles, are within reach of the city. A 90 minute flight from Sydney and four hours from Perth, the city of Melbourne is perfectly located for experiencing mini breaks and longer vacations elsewhere in Australia.
In a nutshell, VAMFF opened my eyes to Melbourne: I now feel a lot of love for a city I’ve overlooked for years. I guess if Melbourne had a star sign, it would share mine – Gemini. Like me, Melbourne has two sides: adaptable but spontaneous, serious but adventurous – with the ability to be a solitary soul, as well as the life and soul of the party.
Images: Kris Miller
From top: Melbourne city centre; Shona Tawhiao and Albertini, my two favourite looks at the Indigenous Runway; before the show at the Royal Exhibition Building, VAMFF’s new venue; the Dion Lee finale; FROW at Discovery Runway; the amazing food at Casa Ciuccio; an old Dodge in Fitzroy; street art in the city; Edithvale beach; signs to everywhere; with the ‘roos at Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort & Spa, where we stayed in the second week; the 12 Apostles.