Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales of Romance Was Born won designer of the year at the 2021 Australian Fashion Laureate, while Linda Jackson and Grace Lillian Lee were also honoured.
The awards, which recognise creative excellence and achievements across the Australian fashion industry by highlighting the country’s fashion leaders and innovators, presented fashion design duo Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales with the coveted designer of the year accolade.
Plunkett and Sales met while studying fashion in 2005 and established Sydney-based contemporary womenswear label Romance Was Born, offering statement pieces in colourful prints and featuring embroidery, intricate beading and sequins.
While the emerging designer of the year accolade was awarded to Richard Jarman, the creative director behind Commas, a swim and resortwear label founded and based in Sydney, celebrating his ethical approach.
In recognition of Australia’s Indigenous fashion sector, organisers IMG introduced a new Indigenous designer of the year category this year to celebrate Australia’s First Nations designers. The inaugural award went to Julie Shaw of the Maara Collective label, a luxury resortwear brand that featured in the Indigenous Fashion Projects show at Australian Fashion Week in 2021.
IMG names 2021 Australian Fashion Laureate winners
Another new award was the Carla Zampatti award for excellence in leadership, honouring persons who have made outstanding contributions to advancing the position of women in the Australian fashion industry. This was presented to Indigenous designer and entrepreneur Grace Lillian Lee.
The Australian Fashion Laureate awards also placed a spotlight on sustainable development, presenting Deborah Sams and Mary Lou Ryan founders of Bassike with the sustainable innovation of the year accolade. Bassike has become the go-to Australian brand for sustainably sourced wardrobe essentials, with 95 percent of its collections produced in Australia using organic materials.
There was also a people’s choice award, with the public crowning Elizabeth Abegg and Isabella Pennefather of Spell as its favourite Australian fashion designers.
While the awards pinnacle honour, the Australian Fashion Laureate lifetime achievement award, was awarded to Linda Jackon for her “significant impact on the growth and development of the Australian fashion industry”. The pioneering Australian designer is known for her eclectic designs and co-founding the influential Flamingo Park boutique in Sydney with designer Jenny Kee.
Natalie Xenita, vice president-managing director of IMG’s fashion events and properties, Asia-Pacific, which organisers the event, said in a statement: “The Australian Fashion Laureate 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.”