Since its inception in 1996, the Next Gen runway has been regarded as one of the must-see shows on the Afterpay Australian Fashion Week schedule. Conceived to identify emerging designers and aid them in launching their brand, IMG has officially opened applications for the program, with the four winners set to unveil their collections during AAFW 2023.
This year's Next Gen program comes at a unique time for the industry. Australia's fashion landscape is waking up. A new generation of designers are sweeping social media, even the runways at AAFW, in a way that feels wholly exciting and unseen. There's Alix Higgins and Jordan Gogos and Ramp Tramp Tramp Stamp and Maroske Peech and Emily Watson and Diaspora. Really, I could go on.
The program is here to support this energy shift. "Most people don't realise the huge costs involved in launching a label, let alone staging a runway show," fashion journalist Isabelle Truman explains. It's "a vital way to have your collections seen by stylists, editors and buyers whose support is oftentimes the difference between success and failure".
Truman will sit on the judging panel for the 2023 Next Gen program, alongside fellow global industry experts like Rick Owens designer, Tyrone Susman, Bianca Spender, Net-A-Porter Market Director Libby Page and more. Together they will score a total of 15 finalists on their portfolios and the four who receive the highest marks will go onto become the winners.
"For too long the industry has favoured those with the money available to fund themselves, and it suffers because of it: young, dynamic, talented creatives without that privilege simply have no opportunity," Truman told RUSSH. Next Gen is a crucial disruptor of an industry built on elitist hierarchies."
To be considered, applicants are asked to demonstrate sustainable and ethical practices within their business, be it through transparency or by addressing wastage, circularity and their own carbon footprint. Then there's the element of having an innovative relationship with fabric and textiles.
In return, the four winners will receive a dedicated runway show, with footage and photography from the runway included, along with a dedicated brand campaign, PR and social media strategy, $2000 in DHL shipping credits and a one-on-one meeting with a DHL fashion logistics expert.
As a judge, Truman will be keeping an eye out for applicants who showcase a unique vision that sits outside the trend cycle or what designers are doing overseas. She was blown away by the talent at the Next Gen show this year, noting Phoebe Pendergast as a standout. "I'll be wearing her lace zipped hoodie nonstop at London fashion week in a few days."
More than anything though, Truman would like to see more "First Nations applicants and anyone using fashion in an inclusive way – designs with extended sizing in mind, please!"
To apply for Next Gen, submit your recent lookbook, sketches and brand overview on the Next Gen website before October 30.