Kim Russell, our resident guest editor for the entirety of AAFW (known to the internet as @thekimbino on Instagram and Twitter), has a knack for making her tell-it-like-it-is fashion commentary simultaneously approachable and intellectual. AAFW 2023 marks Russell's first time attending Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, and RUSSH's first time enlisting a resident guest editor for the occasion – and what a week it has been!
Here, Russell takes us through the chaos of her first few days at AAFW, and her uncensored thoughts on this year's fashion presentations, hot off the runway.
As the days grew closer and closer to AAFW, my anxiety grew, reaching its peak the few minutes before I met RUSSH's Editor-In-Chief, Jess Blanch. Before this magical union, I was faced with the fact that I'd be flying into Sydney on Mother's Day – my first without my mum, and my first away from my son. If that wasn't enough to throw my neurosis in to overdrive, this was also my first AAFW, and I'd be covering it for RUSSH Magazine – the pressure was dialled up and on.
However, at this moment in time, I'm sitting in my hotel right under the Harbour Bridge. Ferries and cruise ships sail by, pumping tunes and carrying happily tipsy people, and my anxieties have mostly melted away. I have been absolutely spoiled to experience this beautiful week with the fabulously caring team at RUSSH.
I started my day with a scalding shower in a complete daze – this doesn't look like my average morning of making Vegemite toast and cutting up strawberries for my son. I can't say it enough, and I refuse to shut up about it, but the minute I met Jess in the flesh it was like the comfort of a thousand cashmere sweaters. I had the honour of experiencing the Welcome to Country, given to us by Uncle Brendan "Japangardi" Kerin, and felt connected and grounded in those moments, remembering the reason I'd come all this way.
Seeing the influencers and micro stars in the person, having their outfits flashed and papped, was something I'd only seen on the small screen – never in the wild. Outside of Alémais, they flocked together in brightly coloured skirts and dresses, waiting to get into the first gallery at Carriageworks.
Alémais put me right back into season two of The White Lotus, with Catherine Baba’s styling really taking it to to another level. My second show of the day was a stripped-back love affair presented by St. Agni, an Australian love child of Helmut Lang and Ann Demeulemeester. It was honestly my favourite show of the day. I’m not sure what gave it a way? The epic praise on Instagram or the fact that I blurted out a pull request to the iconic Robyn Catinella right after the show? Somehow, after the chaos of clothes I was swept into the riptide of the Sydney city centre, with a last-minute hotel change to be followed by spectacular nibbles and drinks with THE Emma Lewisham HERSELF. We were then whisked away in transportation to the Maggie Marilyn show on the water – the backdrop the beautiful Sydney harbour sunset! The team at Maggie Marilyn must have paid for the rain to go away because it was truly breathtaking. I met some amazing people today, which was one of my worries. You never know what you’re walking into as someone who’s quite out of the Sydney fashion scene. All my fears and expectations for the worst were shattered, I've never felt so welcomed!
My day started at 3am with a raging migraine. I went back to sleep in hopes that some snooze time would be the natural fixer… it wasn’t. However, nothing – not even a migraine – would stop me from the scheduled coffee I had this morning with Valentino’s iconic Katrina Napoli and Tom Ryan. The latter being my saviour, with six mini-capsule Panadols that had me ready to face the fashion and socialising for the day. We began with a chic Anna Quan show in the alleyway behind The Ace Hotel, complete with icy blue carpeting to match the cool Sydney morning. Every now and then the wind would pick up like a paid actress, models' hair flourishing as they glided down the runway in to-die-for mules and sandals.
I also met the famous Albert of Up Next Designer, whose excitement was absolutely palpable and infectious even after a 24-hour trip from New York off the back of Barcelona Fashion Week. After Anna Quan we all packed ourselves into Jess Blanch’s (rockstar EIC) car and we were off to the familiar chaos of Carriageworks to attend the Erik Yvon show. The vibes were so heart warming, and one of those reminders of why I love fashion; the emotion it brings out in myself and others. The soundtrack and energy was a big contrast to the seriousness and quite formal approach other brands had taken, but it was a welcome change. I had the afternoon off to fully recover from my migraine that never fully went away, so I ordered a "tunacado" from Joe & The Juice and enjoyed the sunset over the harbour. I’m trying not to get used to it!
It felt like only a minute had passed but I found myself back in an Uber to my second home for the week…Carriageworks. Jordan Gogos and Akira Isogawa presented their eclectic meeting of the minds in the most unique way possible. By all means it was Jordan-core! The night ended in a major blur with all of the attendees at Carriageworks finding themselves in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift in order to make it to Wynn Hamlyn by 9pm…spoiler alert we were seated by 9:37. Being that it was actually set in a Go-Kart parking lot, the journey there was scarily accurate! The clothes were a mixture of chic, motomami-meets-cool -girl monologue. Real down to mars girl.
Getting to hump day and I’ve started getting into the swing of AAFW — I had a 10am show at Ngali and I couldn’t ask for a more relaxing start to the day. Flowing skirts, fringes and freeing silhouettes littered the runway not far from the themes of the other runways at AAFW. The show was nicely edited which meant it didn’t run too long and I found myself ready for the next show which happened to be Gail Sorronda and holy shite did it rock my little world. The collection fit right into my two deepest interests: goth lord and witchy princess. A special part of this being my first fashion week is I get to learn more about our home grown icons, so as I uttered the words “reminds me of Simone Rocha” I was about to be informed of who the blueprint really is! Gail’s work from as early as 2005, is present in her latest collection, which is a testament to her legacy and aesthetic. After having my wig pulled back by the latter show, I had a fabulously relaxing day at my hotel, the harbour my closest neighbour, sun glistening off of the water, diamonds dancing. It was so peaceful that not even a call with a huge book publisher could throw me off of my relaxation station. My night was boozy and French with Bioderma and the searing headache at 3am was absolutely worth it. Mum's well deserved night out we’ll call it.
With a smouldering hangover that was completely worth it, I prepared myself mentally for the night ahead of me. My panel discussion with Albert Ayal and Jonah Waterhouse about the future of fashion and the wave of new voices on social media was creeping closer and while I felt reassured, the walk up to the stage and watching the room fill with people definitely turned up the pressure. I think the apple spritz I enjoyed with Jordan Gogos and his manager Jamie-Lee of IMG, beforehand really helped because the hour flew by and before I knew it i was taking pictures with people afterwards. Now the real marathon began as I made my way to Nicol & Ford, their show a mix of sultry and sexy elements. Akira Isogawa sat across from me and it was a real “holy shit look where you are” moment! After the intimate showing in gallery three, we filed out and made our way to Speed which I’d heard would be epic. I was only confirmed with a ticket that afternoon thanks to MUVA Blanch and thank god I was! It was truly for the cool kids and the place to be that Thursday night. Usually I don’t involve myself in menswear because it can be quite boring, but Alvi Chung absolutely enthralled me. I relished in Speed’s styling and runway production knowing my last show of the day was… CUE. I took one for the RUSSH team and put my professional face on and headed into the jam packed gallery one for Cue’s first runway show.
We were promised a star studded cast which made me quite skeptical about whether this is what they’d be relying on to be relevant in such a competitive roster of diverse talent. Before you call me a hater I will admit i was happily surprised to find the clothes weren’t too offensive and served its purpose… commercialised products. It’s always a treat to see Gemma Ward. I bow down to mother!
Somehow we made it. We did it Joe! My first fashion week in Australia left my feet battered and bruised and my eyes permanently like sandpaper. We had a late start today with Alix Higgins and Charlotte Agnew on styling, what a sick start to the day. I would like to brag that personally Alix asked me to be front row so take that and cash it! We all fawned over the prints and the rugby jersey we all wanted to rip from the model and wear for ourselves.
After the epic show in gallery two we did some photos for RUSSH, while none of us are models by profession our photographer Olivia Repaci made the process go from unbearable to quite palatable. This week I’ve found myself malnourished and dehydrated because there’s just not enough time in the day but Friday was different! I had a life changing meal with Jess Blanch that included a stunning latte that I’ll think about forever.
Carriageworks had me back in their grip but it was totally worth it to see the Next Gen show where Rube Pedder blasted us out of the water, nuclear bomb style. It was a showing that gave me real hope for the future of fashion in Australia, with so much dimension in the way it’s designed and made but never sacrificing wearability. I’m a stan let’s say that. There was no dawdling as our next show was off site at 25 Martin Place in the heart of the city. With my blisters in full swing and the dodgy car park with the steepest ascent laid out in front of me I had no hope for enjoying Haulier… I definitely ate my thoughts. I had the best seat in the house obviously with RUSSH that’s a no brainer, my seat mate was the icon Pip Edwards. I don’t know if it was the gin and tonic, the atmosphere or the clothes but Haulier was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had. Somehow the runways just kept getting more intense which seems impossible but Caroline Reznik and her team really rounded off the week in the most divine way possible. The show was very “me coded”. Succubus, vampiric, sexy, cold. It was everything I could’ve wished for to end my first AAFW. After all the clothes were done and gone, the RUSSH team indulged me to a beautiful night of Italian and safe space stories that had my belly hurting from laughter. I couldn’t be more lucky!