words and interview by Alyce Cowell

So we know that becoming a successful fashion designer is about as difficult as Mariah Carey trying to cover her midriff. We also know that doing anything for yourself is shit and boring. That’s why it’s awesome when someone goes and builds a website for you where you can sell your range to the public and get just a little more famous. It also helps us regular people to find up-and-coming designers, buy their stuff and act all Vogue on our friends before everyone else catches on.

Young Designers Online ( was created by the clever Kelly Butson and launched last week. It stocks ladies and men’s fashion, accessories and footwear from designers like Snail Trail, Shardie, Featherhead, Hungry Designs and Lois and George.

The future Westwood’s and Galliano’s will get their own personal mentor in fashion critic and stylist Madam Alexandra E to coach them along the way. Lucky!

MAE caught up with us to give us the low-down on YDO:

What is your background?
I am a certified and professional stylist, and am currently completing certification in fashion journalism.

What is your role on the website and with the designers?
My role with YDO is to provide mentoring to the designers (if required). I like to refer to it as constructive feedback. Often the designers create something great… but with feedback it can be made better. Like all business structures, customer feedback is the best approach to improve what you are offering.

What areas do the designers need mentoring and why?
I generally make comments or shed my opinion on the whole package offered by the designers. For example from the styling, website presentation, garment collections etc. I rarely make any comment about their craftsmanship/skill as a designer. Designing is their profession, I make comment after the fact.

What is your opinion of Australian fashion at the moment? 
Designers and trends you are digging?
Australian fashion at the moment has definitely evolved. In the past we use to depend and rely heavily on the ‘chain store’ offerings, but now Australia is finally finding new ways to allow the less advantaged designers (lack of financial support for the label etc) to show their talent to the consumer market, in return giving consumers greater options.  

Concepts like YDO allow emerging and some established designers greater exposure of their products/designs. This of course was predicted to happen naturally, due to the development and rise of the online shopping format.

In the past, before the internet, a designer had to have a shop and shop front to gain access to the consumers or you had the markets. These days the options of reaching consumers are much more advanced with the old techniques such as market stalls still being fashionable. Because of this, more of the Australian design talent is being unearthed and discovered faster.

The only gripe I still have with the Australian fashion culture, is that it still tends to follow trends very slowly. It has yet to set its own trends.

I generally keep my eye out for designers which present their creations in a way where I instantly know the inspiration behind it – how it can/should be worn, and the wow factor in it. Basically trying to see it as how the designers first see it in their eyes, but in a much more critical eye of course.

There is fashion that is wearable, then there is fashion that is ‘unwearable’ but fantastic to admire… I appreciate both.

Which emerging designers should we keep a close eye on?
Emerging... emerging to me has two categories:

1. The designers who have little or no financial funds, no website, no marketing support etc, just doing it on their own in hope of word of mouth

2. The designers who have enough to have the logo, website and one or two stockists. Own store even…. but just not big yet!

I declare… keep a close eye on a label called Subfusco. They are strong in their men’s line but weak in their female collection. But I love them because I think they are the new ‘edge’ offering in men’s fashion.

I also think a label called Metallic Dreamer by Tanya Arlidge will become recognised on a bigger scale this year. It’s created small whispers amongst the fashion conscious but only now will it be heard nationally and quite possibly globally by 2011. Metallic Dreamer is an accessories label specialising in the whole ‘statement and bib’ creation craze.

This is the year – as it was last year – of an emergence of accessory designers. The actual designers creating garments will be slightly overshadowed by these bold accessory designers.