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Meet the winners of the 2021 Australian Fashion Laureate Awards

PHOTOGRAPHY BY LAUREN BAMFORD
WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

These are the recipients of the industry’s most revered fashion awards.

The winners of Australia’s most coveted fashion accolades were announced last night. The Australian Fashion Laureate (AFL) honours the achievements and creative excellence of the local fashion industry, and the 2021 awards saw a stellar lineup of winners.

This year the AFL, an IMG event supported by the NSW Government, recognised those in the industry that are at the forefront of innovation and are reshaping the industry and its future. 2021 saw the introduction of several new award categories, including Indigenous Designer of the Year, which spotlights Australia’s wealth of First Nations design talent, and the Carla Zampatti Award for Excellence in Leadership, which honours people who have contributed to the advancement of women working in the Australian fashion industry.


Discover up-and-coming local designers in our Fashion section.


Speaking about the award, IMG’s Vice President-Managing Director said it “… provides an important platform to celebrate the success of Australia’s designers and fashion talent, while demonstrating that our industry’s creativity and connectivity can continue to flourish despite extraordinary challenges. In striving for change and innovation, today’s honourees have played a significant role in future-proofing our industry and reinforcing the cultural impact of fashion both within and beyond Australia.”

The winners were chosen by a panel of industry leaders, including designers, creatives, media, buyers and communications professionals. Taking out the industry’s top honour was Linda Jackson AO, who went home with the Australian Fashion Laureate Lifetime Achievement Award. Jackson is a much-loved figure in the Australian fashion industry, known for her bold prints and pioneering work with Jenny Kee in Australian fashion design from the 1970s onwards.

The Emerging Designer Award went to Sydney label Commas, which took out the award due to its ethical, androgynous approach to contemporary fashion. Sustainability is increasingly a core focus for the fashion industry at large, and this year the Sustainable Innovation Award went to iconic Sydney label Bassike, thanks to designers Mary Lou Ryan and Deborah Sam’s transparency and circular approach to design.

Grace Lillian Lee, a designer and the founder of First Nations Fashion and Design, took out the Carla Zampatti Award for Excellence in Leadership. In her speech, she tearfully declared that “First Nations Fashion and Design are the next generation of leaders, the future of fashion is here and it’s only the beginning”.

Reinforcing Lee’s words, Julie Shaw of luxury resortwear label Maara Collective won the inaugural Indigenous Designer of the Year Award, a long overdue category for the AFL and a testament to Maara Collective’s mammoth year. You can check out all the winners from the awards below.

Australian Fashion Laureate Award Winners 2021

Australian Fashion Laureate Lifetime Achievement Award
Linda Jackson AO

Designer of the Year
Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales, Romance Was Born

Emerging Designer of the Year
Richard Jarman, Commas

Indigenous Designer of the Year
Julie Shaw, Maara Collective

Sustainable Innovation of the Year
Deborah Sams and Mary Lou Ryan, Bassike

Carla Zampatti Award for Excellence in Leadership
Grace Lillian Lee

People’s Choice
Elizabeth Abegg and Isabella Pennefather, Spell

You can find out more about the Australian Fashion Laureate here and here

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