Brisbane has produced some of Australia’s most innovative designers, from Easton Pearson to Gail Reid, and there is a program to ensure that we continue to nurture more

Candidates should have produced a collection for at least one season and, ideally, have secured stockists in place for a chance to join the program – and even then there is still a price to pay in monthly fees to ensure only the most committed apply.

Program mentors include former Jean Brown fashion buyer Joshua Jones and Melanie Finger, co-creator of Bindi Irwin’s international fashion line, who both offer invaluable guidance on overseas markets, trends and an insight to the perspective of fashion buyers.

Fashion Incubator manager Cynthia MacNee says tackling common business hurdles helps the budding designers avoid some of the pitfalls. “Fashion designers have to learn ‘the business’ of the business very quickly,” she says. “It’s an inside track on how to proceed without making a lot of mistakes others have made. We’re not working with students, we’re working with designers who are ready to take their business to the next level.”

About six to eight designers are selected and they have daily access to the Stitch Lab, a commercial equipment set-up at the Kelvin Grove campus, as well as to regular workshops on topics from cash flow advice, budgeting and costing to technical production skills.

“We hope it will become a template for other collaborations,” says MacNee.

Program alumni include brothers Sam and Jono Cottee, whose Vanguard label is now stocked by international retail heavyweights Asos and Bloomingdales, and Ana Diaz, whose label was picked to be part of Sportsgirl’s inaugural Graduates Collection in 2011.

Sharka Bosakova, 38, completed the program last year and since then her now three-year-old label has been picked up by edgy new James Street boutique Sans Peur Workshop.
“The main thing I wanted to learn was the commercial side of fashion and that was very beneficial. Being around other designers and working with one another was also great but learning about the inside of the fashion industry was the most important thing to me,” she says.

The Sharka label is also on show until mid-February at the Logan Art Gallery, which highlights the long-term collaboration between Bosakova and photographer Renata Buziak, whose prints form many of the Sharka textiles. A separate exhibition of their work is on at Artisan, Fortitude Valley, until mid-March.

Collaboration is a major focus for QUT Creative Enterprise Australia which is already finding great success. Last year’s Akin project teamed five indigenous artists with final year QUT fashion students to create a fashion line using the artists’ prints as textiles. The Akin label is now in production and being shopped to fashion agents interstate after receiving investment offers from two philanthropists.

As seen in bmag issue 251