Wattle it be: Aje presents bold take on Australiana without the kitsch

From Jenny Kee to Ken Done, Australian designers through the years have each offered their individual interpretation of Australiana.

On Sunday, it was the turn of Aje, the Queensland-born label that over 11 years has cemented its place as a mainstay of "affordable luxury" Australian fashion.

A model walks the runway wearing creations by Aje during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia on Sunday. Credit:AAP

Opening Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia under the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, Aje's celebration of the Great Southern Land included a colour palette inspired by Australian flora – wattle yellow, salt lake pink, rock red – and a dress that designer Edwina Forest said "quite literally looks like a gumnut".

"We have taken our inspiration from the natural wonders of this beautiful country," Forest said ahead of the show. "The iconic emblems … the trees, soil, sky, silhouettes from land, rocks and the sea."

Early looks included wattle embroidery and an abstract print of the national floral symbol, before giving way to waratahs, kangaroo paw and prints that appeared at least inspired by the corals and aquamarine of the Great Barrier Reef.

Forest said she and business partner Adrian Norris included "a lot of nostalgia from our youth" in the collection.

And the evidence was on the runway in the form of bowling shirts with patches inspired by outback road signs, and more than a passing reference to Australian classics Playing Beatie Bow and Picnic at Hanging Rock in prairie dresses and puffy sleeves galore.

Inspired by rock formations along the coast, Forest said the pair had "a lot of fun creatively in terms of the placement of sleeves and how much volume", adding that these billowing shapes were juxtaposed with "rugged masculine tailoring".

"We want it to be a happy collection," she said. "We want people to be happy when they see it and wear it."

But it wasn't just about clothes for the brand, which used Sunday's runway to debut a jewellery collection Forest said was "a long time coming".

By having full-fledged accessories lines, Forest said "you can allow customers to buy into a complete look".

Still, as the brand moves forward, it has also reimagined one of its staples, the logo tee, for this season, "taking inspiration from signposts when you are driving in the outback", Forest said.

She said it was imperative in this show, the brand's largest solo outing to date, that the models reflected "the modern face of Australia".

"It's about really showing the diversity of cultures in this country. This concept of diversity is quite topical – it really saddens me because, really, it should have always been this way."

Fashion Week, which is attended by international retail buyers, media and invited guests, continues on Monday with shows from P.E Nation, Tigerlily and US-based designer Jonathan Simkhai.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia runs until Saturday. The writer travelled as a guest of IMG.

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