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Festival the ultimate in window shopping

THE fashion industry is finally realising its future lies with the people who actually buy the clothes.

IMG, which runs industry events including Australian Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week, which are open only to buyers and media, will on Monday welcome consumers to the fashion fold with the Sydney Fashion Festival open to anyone who buys a ticket.

“Consumers are ultimately the most important factor in fashion,” IMG Australia general manager Daniel Hill said yesterday. “If designers aren’t selling their product then their business is unsustainable.”

His views are shared by influential fashion trade publication Women’s Wear Daily, which earlier this month canvassed opening New York Fashion Week to the public.

“It’s only a model’s stride-length to the idea that even more extras — and paying ones at that — could be invited, creating a new revenue stream for designers and even more publicity,” WWD observed.

Simon Doonan, creative director of upmarket New York department store Barneys, told WWD: “In recessionary times the customer should be king … and the rest of the time, too!”

Runway shows, designer discount dockets, fashion parties and in-store events are among the initiatives for consumers as part of the second annual SFF, which runs for five days in Sydney’s Martin Place.

All of the clothes at the SFF are available to buy immediately in stores, unlike those on the runway at AFW, which previews collections to the industry months before they go on sale to the general public.

“This event is ultimately about putting fashion retail at the top of people’s minds at a time when the new spring-summer collections are going into stores,” Mr Hill said.

Some of the most popular tickets are those to the AFW Review shows, which are smaller versions of what the industry saw at AFW in April.

But Mr Hill said there were no plans to open AFW itself to the public.

“We do bring non-fashion people into AFW; that’s as a result of sponsors coming in and corporate VIP hospitality programs, but basically it’s somewhere where the business of fashion occurs.” Mr Hill said consumers were already well catered to by other retail fashion festivals, including the Brisbane Fashion Festival, which opens on August 23, the Perth Fashion Festival, from September 4, and the annual Melbourne Fashion Festival in March.

“Australia has a very mature market when it comes to (fashion) consumer events,” he said. “But it’s not like they’re competition for us; it’s all complementary and all ultimately good for the industry.”