For the past ten years, communications consultant and founder of the Australian Fashion Foundation, Malcolm Carfrae has worked tirelessly to connect Australian fashion design talent with global brands.
Following roles in global communications at Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, the New York-based Sydney native opened the doors to Carfrae Consulting in 2017. Here he develops bespoke brand strategies for international fashion players such as Zimmermann and Diane von Furstenberg, digital dating disruptors Bumble and Chappy, and cult beauty brand Dr. Barbara Sturm, to name a few.
Working from New York allows Carfrae to broker invaluable industry connections for Australia’s brightest fashion graduates. It is the combination of his networks and experience at the top of the industry, along with a wish to nurture to fashion’s next generation that inspired Carfrae to co-found the Australian Fashion Foundation (AUSFF) with Julie Anne Quay of VFiles in 2009.
Each year, with the support of QICGRE and the American Australian Association, AUSFF generously gifts AUD$20,000 and a coveted 6-month internship at a major fashion house to two Australian fashion graduates. Recent years’winners have been placed at such storied maisons as Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen and Thom Browne.
David Waters: What are you most looking forward to with the Australian Fashion Foundation in 2019?
Malcolm Carfrae: My hope is always to help more young Australians get into the fashion industry. There is so much talent coming out of the top fashion schools in the country and yet there are only so many jobs in Australia itself. The award is an incredible platform from which to start a career in fashion internationally and I’m always so excited to see how our winners’ careers develop.
This year’s scholarship winners were Helena Dong and Amanda Nichols – both recent graduates of Melbourne’s RMIT University. This year will be the tenth anniversary of the launch of AUSFF and I can hardly believe it. We couldn’t do what we do without the generous support of QICGRE and the American Australian Association.
DW: How are the winners chosen?
MC: Students send in an essay and their portfolio. Ninety percent of applicants are fashion design students but they might also be photographers, graphic designers and fashion marketers. We receive over 100 applications every year. We then select 10 semi-finalists.
The selection process is done with our judging panel which includes Vogue Australia editor in chief Edwina McCann, designer Nicky Zimmermann, stylist Brana Wolf, Harper’s Bazaar Australia editor in chief Eugenie Kelly, industry legend Nancy Pilcher, retail consultant and QICGRE representative David Bush and myself.
DW: Is there something unique about young Australians’ relationship to fashion?
MC: Young Australian creatives have such relentless energy and spirit. Everyone notices it. They don’t give up and will work twice as hard as their international counterparts to prove themselves on the global stage. Their attitude is so positive, yet they’re humble and down to earth. All of these qualities are particularly refreshing in the fashion industry.
DW: What advice would you give to a young person starting out in fashion today?
MC: Make the very most of internships. And network. While you are in college, when you are on summer vacation, when you graduate – use every contact you have to get to the right people; it’s the first thing a prospective employer will look at, especially for an entry-level position. This is so important! I can’t stress enough that you must be both gracious and willing to work incredibly hard. This may sound tough, but you are not entitled to anything. It’s up to you to go out there and prove yourself.
DW: What are the big changes you see coming for the fashion industry in the next few years?
MC: The fashion industry has changed hugely over the past few years and the speed of change is only going to increase. Fashion brands are making their own media platforms and will spend more of their budgets creating content for themselves. This trend will gain further traction in the years ahead.
Today, style influencers with hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers have as much or sometimes more power than traditional fashion magazine editors. Digital and video are definitely the future of fashion marketing. Every brand has to create a 360-degree plan that includes social, digital, VIP and celebrity relations, integrated marketing and experiential content-driven events alongside traditional PR and advertising. This is also very important to consider for a young fashion designer starting out today.