We’ll always have Paris: Aussie designers build French connection

Internationally, more Australian designers show on the runway at Paris Couture Week than any other international event, closely followed by New York.

But catwalk or no catwalk, Paris Fashion Week, which starts on Monday, is still intrinsically important to sales of Australian fashion into Europe and the Middle East.

French connection … Marc Freeman and Camilla Freeman-Topper of Camilla and Marc.Credit:Louise Kennerley

After several years focusing their international efforts on the US, brother-sister duo Camilla Freeman-Topper and Marc Freeman, of Camilla and Marc, are pivoting ever so slightly to the French capital, with a showroom at The Ritz and a VIP dinner at eighth-arondissement institution Caviar Kaspia this Paris Fashion Week.

"We are not saying goodbye to New York in any way," said the pair, who count Neiman Marcus among their US stockists.

But the brand recently picked up French department store Le Bonne Marche and London institution Selfridges, so Freeman-Topper said it "made sense for us to activate something during [Paris] Fashion Week".

Besides, European women really get the brand, possibly even more than Americans.

"The European woman really gravitates to our colletion," she said. "She understands the quality and style … [she] responds well to tailoring and understands the classicism and effortless sophistication in our collection."

Freeman-Topper studied her masters in Italy, so "there is always a strong European element in [their] collections".

What that looks like, for season spring 2020 (out in Australia in February), is a slight nip tuck of the waist, an elongation of shoulders and plenty of leather, in boiler suits and skirts.

"It's all about celebrating the woman's body and her physique," said Freeman-Topper. "We've played a lot with prints and tried to create something for all our customers."

The brand has also continued to expand its accessories, including bags, a source of great pride for the pair. "Women who can afford designer bags are buying ours because they are so well made," Freeman-Topper said.

At Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia in 2018, Camilla and Marc made headlines for sending giant bags down the catwalk. For spring 2020, they're once again roomy after this year's obsession with smaller, cross-body styles.

As for the differences in doing business in the US and Europe, Freeman said while "each market has its own idiosyncracies, [their] customer globally is ultiamtely a similar woman".

About 50 other Australian brands will have a presence at Paris Fashion Week, including Rebecca Vallance, Aje and Camilla. The Australian Fashion Council is also holding two events in support of Australian designers in Paris.

Only a handful of Australian designers have shown on the official schedule at Paris Fashion Week, including Colette Dinnigan.

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