FASHFEST - building a platform for success

Nic Crowther
Mon 25 Sep

The glitz. The glam. The fashion, music, film, sound and lighting.

FASHFEST, Canberra’s annual premier fashion event, rolls out the red carpet in style. But behind the scenes is a business that is only five years old and still maturing.

‘The business side of FASHFEST is mega complex,’ says Clint Hutchinson, who co-founded the event with his wife Andrea, to fill a gap in the market. ‘Before FASHFEST, Canberra was the only capital city in Australia to not have its own major fashion show, so there was no precedent set here. Behind-the-scenes we’re still working out the formula, testing each year to see what works and what doesn’t. We keep adjusting, including by ensuring that tiered silver seating is affordable, at $49.’


Image: Andrew Sikorski


FASHFEST strives to provide guests, at all levels, a new experience to keep them coming back.

‘This always includes new designers and new musicians, and 2017 is certainly no exception,’ says Clint. ‘But it’s much more. FASHFEST is a total experience, not just a runway.’

Sponsorship is a biggie and it takes hours to secure complementary, on-brand businesses to support FASHFEST. PwC, for example, is on deck supporting the numbers side of the business. QT Canberra returns as accommodation sponsor. On the creative side, Elite Sound and Lighting will once more transform the space into something magical. Redken is on board for hair and Harlotte Cosmetics for makeup. This year, Singapore Airlines has flown in, and will bring some New Zealand designers to Canberra on direct flights.

‘Our relationship with New Zealand is important because in the new couple of years our plans are to host FASHFEST in Wellington,’ says Clint ‘We’ve got a lot to do here to bed FASHFEST down first, but we’ll get there.’


Image: Doug Hall


‘FASHFEST isn’t yet a money maker like some think,’ says Clint. ‘We wish it was but it’s an expensive event to put on, more than $1 million easily. Without dedicated sponsorship, including by partners who have been with us for several years, it wouldn’t be possible, but there are major costs that sponsors don’t or can’t cover. And ticket sales alone don’t cover all costs.’

Glam aside, FASHFEST has at its core the goal of providing a platform for the careers of many creatives. ‘It’s an opportunity for creatives to perform and showcase at a major, serious, professional event,’ says Clint. ‘Before FASHFEST, as an example, Canberra’s most talented fashion designers had to head to Sydney, Melbourne or other capital cities to promote their labels.’

FASHFEST has hoisted the careers of many, in part through sheer determination to do things differently, and that includes presenting live music performances, not settling for piped in music like so many other fashion shows.

Ashley Feraude, of Magnifik, says performing at FASHFEST has paved the way to new opportunities. ‘It has lifted Magnifik onto a major stage with subsequent performances at CBR festivals, the Canberra International Airport showcase series and ArtNotApart,’ says Ashley. ‘Exposure of Magnifik’s original productions has presented opportunities to write scores for major advertising campaigns including ACTEW AGL, CBR Campaign and McDonalds.’

Another example on the music side is the recording and performing artist Kirklandd. Since his debut performance at FASHFEST 2016, Kirklandd has been developing an exciting new sound in his upcoming single, ‘Faded’, which will be premiered live at this year’s event. Kirklandd’s previous single ‘Rise’, first previewed at FASHFEST 2016, set the artist on his first headline national tour.


Image: Doug Hall


Several models who have strutted their stuff at the event are now working on major advertising campaigns, nationally and internationally, having signed up to top-notch agencies. Some designers have become more commercially viable. Other creatives have been introduced to many new business opportunities in a wide range of fields, including sound and lighting.

‘FASHFEST is still a labour of love, not a money-making show,’ says Clint. ‘But Andrea and I are super proud of what the FASHFEST team has achieved.

FASHFEST 2017 is on 28 to 30 September. This year’s show features more than 50 designers and 15 live musicians and DJs. Tickets, starting at $49 for tiered seats, are on sale now: www.fashfest.com.au