Fashion's new tribe

What do Geoff Huegill, Gracie Otto and Clover Moore have in common? Why, they all perched prettily front row at this year's Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, that's what. The front row at the catwalk shows is of course the prime fashion real estate. It's a mark of status, either earnt by working in and around fashion or fudged through a brief dalliance with fame/knowing the right people. Frequent bench warmers include the sort of famous - singing contest winners, sports people, TV presenters - the very famous -  movie stars such as the celebrities at the international shows-  the major fashion magazine and website editors and buyers (local and international), and the highly read/influential bloggers.

The politics of the front row, uninteresting to most except for those in fashion include tantrums about seating,  the upturning of the status quo and the celebrities who are paid (and how much they are paid).

For respected Sydney fashion publicist, director of Golightly PR (who look after the likes of Dion Lee, Manning Cartell and Vanishing Elephant among others) Holly Garber, deciding who sits on the front row ultimately comes back to who can bring the most value to the label, be they famous or not.

"It's a mix of the brands strongest retailers, key media supporters and other people integral to the success of the brand," she says.


While the front row at Australian Fashion Week does not, alas, attract the calibre of celebrities as Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Beyonce or that most famous face in fushun, blow up doll Pandemonia), this is changing, a bit.

Garber says that more Australian celebrities, especially young female ones, are interested in attending the fashion shows. Their presence can be an excellent branding opportunity for the label.

"Australia seems to have a growing group of young, female celebrities who have fashion associations and so are interested in attending shows. Dressing them in the a look from the designer helps to create more interest in the show and the brand," she says.

This year the front row included the likes of Phoebe Tonkin, Rachael Taylor, Lara Bingle, Samara Weaving, media doyenne (and Australian of the year) Ita Buttrose, Jessica Rowe and the usual fashion media (including new Vogue editor Edwina McCann, new Harpers Bazaar editor Kellie Hush and the staffers at the soon to be defunct Madison magazine). The most photographed of all were the bloggers such as Gary Pepper Vintage's Nicole Warne, Tuula Vintage's Jessica Stein and Vogue snapper Candice Lake.

This, says Garber, has been one of the key changes of the front row in recent years. 

"Bloggers are the main trend," says Garber.

"In the space of two to three years they have gone from not being invited to being front row. That's a speedy ascension."

Another trend this year was innovative uses of spaces that gave everybody a front row seat at shows such as Ellery, Christopher Esber and Alex Perry. The live-streaming of shows is another (for surely the best seat in the house is the one in your own home?)

The eclectic mix seated front row this year is a sign of how the front row is adapting to these instagrammed, personal brand-aware times. However some things, says Garber, will remain the same.

"It's [the front row] definitely evolving, largely through to the impact of digital media and blogs. However the front row will always contain a mix of those people who have the commercial power to significantly affect the growth of a designer through sales and buying as well as those people who can support the designer through key media channels," she says.