Shiny polka dot raincoats, whimsical tea dresses, daring patterns, bright and playful colours – look around in any major Australian city and you'll see them en masse.
Instantly recognisable and perpetually coveted, Gorman has become the uniform of fashion-savvy Australian women. The cult surrounding the local label has swelled to the point where past season pieces often sell for over twice their retail price on Facebook groups dedicated to the brand, the largest of which boasts over 8000 "Gormies" searching for their "unicorns" – the pieces they lust for most.
The label has a charming back story – it was launched in 1999 by nurse-turned-designer Lisa Gorman in Fitzroy, an inner-city Melbourne suburb known for its distinct local vibe. In the 17 years since, Gorman has become an iconic Australian brand, proudly positioning itself as sustainable and local, with organic collections and small, personable boutiques country-wide.
Due to its high price point, with dresses costing up to $350 and jackets hovering around $600, there's also a touch of elite about Gorman – it's a status symbol as well as a fashion statement.
In 2009, the label was bought by retail giant Factory X, which also parents brands including Alannah Hill, Dangerfield and Jack London. Gorman continued to put out popular collections, recently collaborating with artists Fred Fowler and Camille Walala to produce interesting, unique designs.
In the last week, Factory X has come under fire after receiving the lowest possible rating on a report on Australian fashion ethics from Baptist World Aid Australia, covering policies, suppliers, auditing and worker conditions – placing them below companies like Kmart.
This stands in stark contrast to the fairly ambiguous social and ethical compliance policyon the Gorman website, boasting "safe working conditions", "sustainable living wages" and "fair and equitable treatment".
Though Gorman was not included in Factory X's assessment as they have separate supply chains, the parent company received the F grade for choosing not to participate in the survey – which begs the question, why stay tight-lipped if you've got nothing to hide?
Immediately following the report's release, a petition was launched online calling for the company to disclose details of factory working conditions and provide transparency to its loyal customers. So far, it has amassed over 1200 signatures, as well as pages of comments demanding fairer ethical practices.
The woman behind the petition, Hannah Bowen, started buying Gorman in 2005 and has noticed a decline in quality in recent collections. She was inspired to take action when discussion around the report started on the Gorman buy/sell Facebook page, and members began asking the same questions she'd had for years.
"I wanted to know why Gorman and/or Factory X didn't respond when they claim to be so proud of their ethical standards," she said via email.
"I think, like me, people are just disappointed that a brand they have loved, supported and promoted for such a long time appears to have strayed so far from their ethical roots … So many customers are purchasing under the assumption that Gorman's ethical practices have never changed."
Gorman's first public response was an Instagram photo of Liao, a worker in Gorman's Chinese factory, who's quoted as saying he loves the label's colours, as though that quells ethical concerns. It has a faint air of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's recent"apology" video – forced and insincere.
The brand tagged the post with #whomademyclothes – a social media campaign forFashion Revolution Week, focusing on ethical fashion. Despite claiming that they'd been planning for weeks to participate, Gorman only jumped on board after the campaign had ended and the questions regarding their ethics began. Judging by the angry comments, the post has raised more questions than it's answered.
When contacted for comment, Factory X's PR manager, Kara Brooks, replied with a statement confirming that the company did not participate in the study. She said that Gorman's customers have been misled, but did not expand on how, and rather than responding to direct questions regarding the brand's ethical practices, she pointed the query back to the online compliance policy.
Lisa Gorman has also released a statement promising that the brand will publicise audit reports in the coming months.
None of this has placated fans, with many boycotting the label altogether, and others vowing to only purchase second-hand items, until it provides the transparency they're after.
Gorman's demographic is not only fashion focused, it's also largely socially aware.
Student and Gorman enthusiast Katie Buddle has taken to her Instagram account, on which she posts about fashion, to inform her 6500 followers of the issues.
She said the strongest responses have been from fellow ethically minded students, who save for months to buy Gorman.
"When we want to make a purchase on a big-ticket item, we want to make sure it's going to last and that it's been made ethically," Buddle said.
"If they become transparent and honest about their manufacturing processes – that's literally all it would take for me to run off and buy a pair of Gorman socks."
Browsing the Gorman Facebook groups, it's not hard to see the rising discontent. Customers complain about dye running on $300 bedspreads when they're washed, inconsistent clothing sizes and stitching coming loose, and factory seconds and faulty items at the chain's discount outlets that often still have three-figure price tags, despite obvious imperfections.
In a recent study from Oxfam Australia, 89 per cent of consumers surveyed said they'd pay more for ethically produced clothing. Yet Gorman lovers are expected to pay exorbitant prices for garments that are reportedly decreasing in quality, and have no assurance that their money is going towards ensuring that the workers behind the scenes are treated and compensated fairly.
As a fan myself, it's frustrating that the company expects its followers' heads to remain in the sand, and condescending that when questioned, they deflect instead of providing concise answers. All the while, they continue to take advantage of brand loyalty to pocket fat pay checks for clothing that appears to be fast fashion quality at designer prices.
Over to you, Gorman.See more at:evening dresses online
Would it be overstating things to say that Ikram Goldman is Chicago fashion? Not by much. A protégé of the legendary Joan Weinstein at Ultimo, Goldman made a statement of her own in 2001, opening an eponymous boutique on Rush Street. Fifteen years and one relocation later, Ikram is one of the world’s most renowned centers of style, with an elite clientele of power players who travel from near and far like pilgrims to a fashion shrine. As Goldman celebrates the 15th anniversary of the boutique, the famously passionate fashionista offers a summary of its history in a series of bons mots.
Style storyteller. “I started Ikram because I wanted to curate a story that was not being told anywhere in Chicago. It was a place where I felt people would want to gather.”
Now and then. “When I first started, the amount of collections I saw was minuscule compared to what I see now, because [now] everyone wants to be a fashion designer. So I can actually curate in a much more profoundly interesting way.”
The first store. “Our accountant said, ‘You don’t need [more] than 2,000 square feet.’ Our Rush Street store was 5,000 square feet—and we outgrew it within a year.”
Seeing red. “We didn’t want the façade to look modern, but we wanted it to have a modern feel. And we saw this slab of red metal, and we thought, This is it—this is exactly what we want.”
Think pink. “One of my favorite moments at Ikram was a midnight [candlelit] dinner we hosted for the band Pink Martini after their performance at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We invited 10 friends with the band and sat here until almost 5 in the morning, where we ate, drank, played music, sang, tried on clothes, and had the best time.”
In it together. “I take on these [young designers] who really just want to be recognized, and we just go together.”
Creature features. “When I first saw the collection Creatures of the Wind presented in New York, I thought, These are two kids that are submerged in their culture.”
Girl crush. “Rodarte aren’t just designers—they’re creating cultural movements. They speak the language of the moment.”
Show me more. “Thakoon [Panichgul] was the first person who ever interviewed me and wrote about me, for Harper’s Bazaar, so we became instant friends. We had dinner and he said, ‘I’m thinking about doing [a line of] sweatshirts and sweaters, blah blah blah,’ and I said, ‘Really? That’s nice. But show me what you really got.’ So he made a collection of 20 pieces and sent them to me. I bought every one. They were flawless.”
For the archives. “I pull one to three pieces per season for [my personal] archive. Original Alexander McQueen, Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe… It’s like art; I invest in them. I’d love to have them someday in a place where they’re curated properly—and they will be.”Read more at:bridesmaid dresses online
The creative effervescence in the kitchen area at the Ethniki Asfalistiki complex had little to do with culinary delights as Lakis Gavalas, the day’s “resident chef,” put the final touches on the bags-for-hats gracing the heads of the exclusively male models.
On the mini catwalk – aimed solely at journalists, bloggers and buyers – which began in the corridor and ended in the main kitchen – the polo T-shirt transformed into a tunic and much more as female silhouettes very loosely hugged the slim male bodies. The fun show signaled a fashion comeback, the return of Greek brand .Lak on the runway following a six-year absence. The occasion was a new edition of Athens Xclusive Designers Week.
“I’m still involved with the term ‘fashion’ and what it means” – he teaches the subject at the Pansik fashion school – “and given the energy I have amassed, I decided to take part in a team effort for the promotion of Greek fashion,” said Gavalas. “In my ‘ironic-humorous’ style, the show took place in the kitchen. A fashion show, whether big or small, must stir my emotions.”
Gavalas is a fine example of the ongoing “misunderstanding” between the local fashion scene, the public and the media. Long before his debts to the state hit the headlines, Gavalas was better known for his eccentric personal style than his entrepreneurial and creative activities.
While many in Greece find the private lives of Greek designers more intriguing than their suggestions for this and every summer, the local Greek apparel sector is fighting on. According to figures published by the Hellenic Fashion Industry Association (SEPEE), the sector currently comprises 1,230 companies employing 15,000 people in production and 20,000 in distribution. About 50 percent of the sector’s turnover comes from exports, which last year reached some 600 million euros.
In the meantime, Athens Xclusive Designers Week is marking 19 (fashion) seasons of efforts to promote local talent. The latest event included 13 fashion shows in three days and one day exclusively dedicated to new designers through catwalks and competitions. Designers such as Celebrity Skin emerged from the AXDW runway, while organizers also host companies and brands such as casual Greek label Funky Buddha.
“A major difference this time round is the reinforcement of the event’s international character, aiming at Greek fashion’s extroversion,” noted AXDW organizer Tonia Fouseki.
Representatives from an e-commerce platform based in London, buyers from Berlin, Dubai and Jeddah, and a fashion editor from Italian Vogue’s digital edition were among the foreign guests attending the shows. Meanwhile, it was London time on the runway, as a joyful pack of Greek fashion bloggers – including Miss Margaret Cruzemark – presented a portion of TopShop’s summer collection. A silver backpack by the British street fashion chain (represented locally by Sotris) seemed like an ideal accessory for several members of Greece’s current political establishment.
Local showbiz was represented in abundance in the front row for Yiannis Togos’s Kathy Heyndels, where the show opened with singer-muse Aggeliki Iliadi. The collection, “Body Sculpture,” kept the house’s signature style intact through sexy pieces built on fringes, embroideries, leather and transparencies in colors such as white and beige. Sharing the same catwalk was the menswear house of Giannetos, whose summer looks included soft pistachio and sweet blue for gentlemen’s trousers. Tassos Mitropoulos presented “Burlesque,” a collection inspired by the dynamism of swing. Corsets, feather, transparencies and leather details came in generous portions, while the evening wear had a boudoir feel. Black is the new black for Cyprus-based, guest Polish designer Natalia Jaroszewska whose monochrome collection featured floor-length dresses with plunging necklines and an emphasis on the waist. There was a change of scenery at Elmira Begatti, a Pilates instructor whose colorful sports wear was presented by models and athletes: Model Yiannis Spaliaras kept a dignified balance on the surfset (a surfboard turned into a gym machine). A camouflage theme on a jacket, a waistcoat and a duffle coat kicked off the show on Giorgos Sourgiadakis’s menswear runway, where actor Yannis Aivazis made a guest appearance.
A large portion of the local fashion scene seemed to be missing from the AXDW runway. While several designers are still going “catwalk solo,” others are keeping away from the spotlight. One of the most encouraging chapters of Greek fashion in the mid-2000s, with shows at Zappeion Hall and later on at the Technopolis cultural complex, now seem but a distant memory. The ensuing recession provided a further blow.
“The crisis strangled fashion. It’s not a priority anymore. People are now worried about sending their children to school. In the old days we had to face the issue of custom issues. Then, with the imposition of capital controls, we were forced to cancel orders. We have no credit abroad, as far as I’m concerned. I’m using my own money,” noted veteran Greek designer Makis Tselios, whose black-and-white collection included camisole and coat dresses. He appeared tireless as he talked about the implementation of a deal that will see pieces from his “Atelier” collection go on sale at a store in central Zurich. In the meantime, the designer’s ready-to-wear collection, ranging from garments to baby clothes for christenings, are manufactured in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria, with the finishing touches being added in Greece.
Prior to uploading another video on the Internet with a single move of the hand, Mr Posh, aka Tasos Lazaridis, founder of PoshFashion, a blog currently registering about 150,000 hits per month, shared his thoughts on the local scene. “Personally I have always backed Greek designers, but they must pay more attention to the digital factor, as most of them ignore even the very basics, such as the importance of a Facebook page, for instance.”
This is not the case with the winners of and contestants for the event’s New Designers Awards, who use their social media skills to the max. The winner in the Best New Designer category this time round was Fotini LGK, whose work was inspired by traditional Japanese garments, among others.
What does the future hold for the aspiring creators of Greece’s occasionally glossy but perennially tough world of style?
“From what I can see, three young designers have stood out so far and all three are making progress every season,” said Fouseki. “There are those who are trying to develop their own brands and companies, while others are working with celebrities. Some are trying to develop production, while others join the design teams of companies.”
Newcomers and more experienced designers are all dealing with the challenging issue of production in their own way, while the state remains absent.
“Europe is now looking toward smaller quantities, new ideas and swift deliveries,” noted Tselios, who foresees a rise in small-scale productions by Greek designer labels in the near future.
“Greek fashion is a work in progress. There is a lot of talent, but there are also those people whom we shouldn’t even bother looking for through Silver Alert,” added Gavalas.
Fashion meets again on and off the AXDW catwalk in six months' time.Read more at:formal dresses online australia