When I told people I was moving to Australia they rolled their eyes and said I was totally unoriginal. They told me I would hate it, that people couldn’t dress there, and that in my typical stylish garb I would stick out like a sore thumb.
It is impossible to judge something you have never experienced and when it came to Australian fashion, that age old epithet about assumption rang ever true. Admittedly the ignorance was understandable; Europe hasn’t really seen the best representation of Aussie style, as many talented designers struggle to traverse the expansive oceans and break into the world’s fashion capitals.
Before moving to Melbourne, I could only have named one or two Australian fashion designers and as a result, I headed to the Southern Hemisphere with low expectations.
Needless to say, I was pretty taken aback when I got to Melbourne and was hit with a harder dose of wardrobe envy than I had experienced in years. Melbourne style was sleeker, chicer and far more sophisticated than anything I had seen back in the UK and I wanted in on the action.
At this point in my sartorial journey, I was still transitioning from student to high-functioning adult with a look that I call ‘hobo chic’. I aspired to be Hepburn but looked a little more hippie and as a result was somewhat flailing in terms of personal style.
Anyone who has moved halfway across the world knows that, although your body may suddenly appear in another hemisphere, it takes time for the rest of you to catch up. Unused to the weather and the lifestyle, I felt like I had left my style at home and spent my first weeks in Melbourne looking at my limited wardrobe and wondering how I had ever managed to dress myself.
Unemployed and without a penny to my name, I hopped around op-shops buying dribs and drabs in an attempt to regain my fashion identity. Yet it appeared that in the short months since I had left Europe, my taste had changed entirely. That’s when Australian fashion came to the rescue.
I started working in David Jones, which was an experience central to my fashion evolution. I cut my hair into a neat, blunt bob and began lusting after the clothes of my glamorous coworkers; leather pants, sheer chiffon shirts and the staple of any Melbourne woman, heels.
I developed a signature make-up look and a penchant for black. Before I knew it, I had become a full-blown Melbourne girl with a smart phone in one hand and a flat white clutched desperately in the other.
Yet, whilst integrating oneself into the culture is a vital part of moving to another country, it is important not to lose your sense of self. I had become a Melbourne girl but lost a bit of myself in the process. I like colour and prints and sometimes even flat shoes and I needed to find a balance between my new monochromatic glamazon identity and the out of date hippie of yore.
It wasn’t until I started working for Emerge Australia and The Fashion Advocate that my eyes were really opened to what the Australian fashion industry had to offer. From meeting new designers to reporting in fashion shows, I was suddenly immersed in everything fashion and everything Australian.
There is a deliberate, wonderfully pulled together aspect to Australian fashion that marks it out from amongst other countries. There is also an incredible range of emerging and established designers who have more to offer than the conservative glamour for which Australia is credited.
Seeing labels devoted entirely to neon, or brands that revolve solely around pompoms and prints, it was clear to me that my new Melbourne self was only one facet of my fashion psyche.
Nevertheless, Melbourne, with all its flaws, was central to how my style evolved during the 18 months that I lived in Australia. Upon arriving back in Europe, friends told me that my sense of fashion seemed more established and I championed the wonders of Australian fashion, raving about every label that I had carried over with me.
Now that a month has gone by- and Australian life has started to fade to memories- I have realised that if there is one thing the fashion industry needs, it is a good dose of Aussie style. Luckily for me, I can still go to my wardrobe, put on my Josh Goot pants, and my Gorman t-shirt, and feel like the well-heeled Melbourne girl I left in the Antipodes.
Follow Iona’s journey here: www.thediscoveress.co.uk