How Australian fashion fell to pieces: a timeline

In the 1990s and 2000s Alannah Hill, Alice McCall and Sass & Bide became household names. Now Australians buy more clothes than ever but few are made or even designed locally. Where did it come undone?

A shock of burnt-orange shaggy fleece trims the collar of a red and gold brocade coat by Lisa Ho. The fabric is so ornate it’s hard to believe the designer started her label at a stall in Sydney’s Paddington markets. Tiny glass beads gleam on the floral silk Alannah Hill dress hanging beside it. Hill began making clothes while working as a retail assistant on Chapel Street in Melbourne. On the dress’s care label, above the words “Gosh I Miss You Frock”, it says “Made in Australia”.

Next on the rack is a cream Sass & Bide jacket, its shoulders padded with layers of scale-like sequins. Its designers, Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton, honed their talents for embellishment during a post-university stint in London, selling hand-customised jeans on Portobello Road. On the rack there is also a Willow dress in lilac crepe, a white lace dress by Lover (which began at Bondi markets), and frilly cocktail dresses by Alice McCall.

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