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Meet the winning designers of Afterpay Australian Fashion Week’s Next Gen program

Image via Replica Project

Words by Stephanie Chadwick

Next in fashion.

The winners of Afterpay Australian Fashion Week’s Next Gen program have been announced and are set to take over the runway. Emerging brands Aaizél, Erik Yvon, Replica Project and Outfaced have been called out as the next generation in Australian fashion.

Founded in 1966 as a way to spotlight Australia’s emerging designers, this year’s Next Gen winners will be platformed at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) to help them reach a global audience and access industry-networking opportunities.


Keep up to date with emerging, Australian brands over at our Fashion section. 


The four talented designers will showcase their innovative collections on June 1 at the Next Gen Runway, and I had the chance to pick their brains on their design ethos and what the future of fashion holds. 

Aaizél

Minhee Jo fuses her appreciation for historic European art and traditional East Asian clothing construction to create her label, Aaizél. While her inspirations are international, all of Aaizél’s garments are designed and produced here in Australia. “I do like to revisit old classic times and adding that twist of what’s going on right now. So I would say I’m more of a classic soul, I think deep down I do really appreciate old ways,” she says.

“For instance, I went through a phase where I was obsessed with traditional Korean clothing – how they were designed and how they were put together. Back then it was very 2D, it was flat but it somehow worked on the body. It was a completely different silhouette top that wouldn’t be considered flattering now. Taking those elements and applying them to what works and what would be in right now, that’s what becomes fusion a mix of old and new.”

Aaizél is known for its neutrals, but this season Minhee is stepping away from the brand’s signature look to inject some fun pops of colour. “It’s a balance of drape – a fluid look with a touch of structured or soft tailoring that is something that I always have across every season.”

@aaizel

Erik Yvon

Erik Yvon’s self-titled label draws inspiration from his Mauritian heritage, with a little multi-cultural Melbourne flair. Erik’s collections are bold, punchy and playful, never shying away from a vibrant print or experimental silhouette.

“All those beautiful cultures that I’m seeing in Australia… I’m trying to bring that into the label to celebrate all the beautiful creators around me,” he says. Erik’s design process is flexible and fluid – just like his designs. He’s inspired by his surroundings and is driven by his creative collaborations with local artists and tells me he doesn’t like to “complicate things too much, I like to go with the flow and just let the collection build up so [I] add things and remove things as I go.”

His collection for the Next Gen runway is called Soft Pawn and in signature Erik Yvon style, will offer bold-yet-wearable transeasonal pieces. “I always try and find that balance between innovative and yet very wearable – I want my customers to be able to relate [to] the product so I don’t want to be too conceptual.”

Like the rest of his Next Gen cohort, Erik is excited about the growing interest in local production as we work towards reviving the Australian fashion industry. “I’m excited about how people are more aware of who has been involved in the making of the garments.”

@erik_yvon

Replica Project

Replica Project’s founder Amanda Nichols is bringing old school fashion methodology and some new tricks to the Australian fashion industry. After her time in corsetry and couture ateliers, Amanda wanted to bring her technical training to commercial ready-to-wear.

“We will be presenting really classic tailored silhouettes with a bit of a twist,” she says. “I’m trying to create these ensembles to maybe inspire people to dress again. I have this intense need to see looks that are really put together.”

While Amanda wasn’t designing in a couture atelier, she was a costume cutter for Hollywood blockbusters like Baz Luhrmann’s Australia and The Great Gatsby, so it’s no wonder her new collection feels a little cinematic. Her latest collection will feature monochromatic ensembles that integrate the concepts of fashion and costume, and she believes her pieces will have a wide appeal.

“Within the collection, there are timeless pieces and there should be something there for everyone and it’s up to you how you want to style it,” she tells me. Amanda designs pieces for women of all ages – everyone from your stylish coworker to your effortlessly cool aunty. Replica Project is all about making clothing with intention and pieces you’ll wear forever.

“Our ethos is to make really beautifully cut and constructed garments and their sustainability is that they should carry you through – you should have these pieces in another ten years and still be wearing them.”

@replica_project_

Outfaced

Megan Taylor began Outfaced during her studies at the Whitehouse Institute of Design and was selected as a finalist for the Student Award at Melbourne Fashion Week in 2019. The label found its whimsical voice early on and resonated not just with Megan but the industry at large.

“Even though this is a concept I first developed when I was at uni, I find a lot of the themes behind it still remain really relevant,” she says. “I think I really want to bring that element of fun and artistic exploration with the pieces and I hope that carries across.”

Megan is a one-woman designing show and chooses to keep all production elements in-house. Her creative vision is all about gender-neutral, non-conforming clothing – beautiful pieces, worn in unconventional ways. 

“That mixing of business wear and some more classical shapes with loungewear and softer shapes – I found that everyone went towards wanting a bit of brightness and colour in their life in lockdown and my collection leans really well into that,” she explains.

Instead of fighting the loungewear craze post-lockdown, Megan is leaning into it, but she’s doing it a little differently. PSA: these are definitely not your standard trackies.  

“We saw obviously in lockdown the rate of people buying loungewear. I like that we are still mixing those comfortable pieces into our dressing even as we begin to go out and explore the world again.”

@outfacedd

If you’re interested in hearing what the Next Gen winners have to say about the future of the industry, tune into the AAFW panel on June 3, and to secure your seat for the Next Gen runway head here.

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