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Aussie Exports: 5 Australian Clothing Designers Making it Big Overseas

by Maddison Costello
Posted: November 09, 2015

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Australian fashion labels are well-represented in the international industry these days, with local designers showing their stuff on the runways of Paris, New York and London.  

In fact, if the words “Australian fashion” bring to mind Mambo boardies and Billabong tees, you must not have been paying attention. Australians are infiltrating the international high-fashion runways with glamorous, edgy and of-the-minute designs – with, yes – an unmistakably beachy influence.


From a stall at Sydney’s Paddington Markets in the early 1990s to a coveted spot on the runways of New York Fashion Week, the label launched by sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann has come a long way. Season on season, Zimmermann presents modern, feminine silhouettes imbued with a relaxed and unpretentious vibe that is somehow classically Australian. This might be the key to the brand’s enormous popularity – flagship stores in New York and LA are a sure sign that the duo has “made it”, and items from their collections are frequently seen draped on style icons such as Miranda Kerr and Olivia Palermo. It has even won the royal stamp of approval, with Kate Middleton sporting a white Zimmermann number during her 2014 visit to Sydney.


If you believe the fashion world hype, Tome’s first collection was worth the wait. Despite having graduated from design school in Sydney in 1998, founders Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin waited until 2011 to launch their passion project in New York City – and the patience seems to have paid off. Informed by Lobo and Martin’s 13 years of industry experience, Tome’s brand of clean, structured womenswear was well-received and quickly gained momentum, taking them to meetings with Anna Wintour, distribution through Net-a-Porter and numerous fashion mag features touting Tome as “the next big thing”.


Fresh from showing her latest collection on-schedule at this year’s Paris Fashion Week (only the third Australian in history to do so), Perth-born designer Kym Ellery hasn’t let the success go to her head.

“It can be incredibly rewarding, absolutely, but it’s also bloody hard work,” says Kym, in an interview with Open Colleges. “If you can push through the exhaustion and the challenges and stay focused then I don’t see any reason why an Australian designer can’t become an international brand.”

And she would know – with its stunning tailoring and trend-setting silhouettes, Ellery has become a uniform for strong, confident, globetrotting women. Rihanna, Cate Blanchett and Solange Knowles are among the tastemakers wearing Kym’s designs, helping take the Ellery brand beyond cult status and into a more mainstream fashion consciousness.

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Kym Ellery here.

Dion Lee

The poster boy of modern, edgy Australian fashion, Dion Lee has been making waves since day one. Debuting at Sydney’s Rosemount Australian Fashion Week (now Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week) in 2009 at the age of 23 – just a year after graduating from fashion school – Lee immediately earned the attention of the fashion press with his sporty, futuristic designs. Domestic fame came quickly with distribution in David Jones and a sold-out capsule collection for Target, and acclaim at the International Woolmark Prize and on the London and New York runways promptly followed, propelling his designs onto the world stage. 2015 marked Lee’s fifth season at New York Fashion Week, cementing him as a leader in the charge of influential Australian designers.


If Dion Lee is the young upstart of the Aussie fashion industry, Camilla Franks is the earth mother. It seems like her now-ubiquitous label has been around forever, so naturally did it fit into the local and international markets – despite launching in Sydney’s Bondi Beach some 10 years ago. Today, her colourful kaftans are seen on some of the world’s most influential bodies, including Beyoncé, Oprah, and Jennifer Lopez - and Camilla remains the approachable, stabilising personality at the centre of her brand.

On international success, she tells Open Colleges:

“If you’re trying to have a globalised collection, there are lots of people around the world doing what you do and sometimes better, so you’ve got to be authentic. If you’re authentic to who you are, then you’ll find your tribe.”

For more career wisdom from Camilla Franks, read part one of our interview series.

Want to know more about fashion design? Check out our guide to careers in fashion.


Remember, it’s not what you know but what you practice that makes you a great leader. Want to know what else makes a great leader?


Maddison Costello

Maddison is an online journalist with a particular interest in fashion, lifestyle, travel and food. Her work has appeared in Qantas Travel Insider, Dubai Tourism and InStyle Magazine. Maddison currently works at Bauer Media Australia and has previously worked for CLRI (NSW) and The Intermedia Group Pty Ltd.

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