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MADE Sydney, Faith Connexion
Young Tapz in Faith Connexion ss17Photography Byron Spencer

What happened when MADE went Down Under?

In an explosion of fashion, skateboarding, music, and art, here’s what went down when New York’s platform for emerging designers mounted a takeover on the other side of the world

Entering the fashion scene in 2009 as an antidote for emerging American designers affected by the country’s economic downturn, MADE continues to evolve well beyond its seven short years. Earlier this year, its LA edition hosted a visceral performance courtesy of founder and creative director Shayne Oliver, whereby models collided atop dirt mounds for Hood By Air’s AW16 show. MADE also played host to Dev Hynes’ Freetown Sound merch pop-up (donating all proceeds to homeless charity True Colors Fund), while rapper-slash-designer Tyler, The Creator unveiled his Golf Wang collection from a remake of his bedroom and skate ramp in the middle of the runway. It would appear that the team could pat themselves on the back and put up their feet – but rather, they plotted a takeover on the other side of the globe.

“Often brushed aside as a place where beach and swimwear reign supreme, it’s easy to neglect a thriving culture dedicated to fashion”

Six months later, US skate culture would follow MADE to Sydney and form the centrepiece of its Australian debut. A remake of the notorious 90s/00s San Francisco skate spot, Hubba Hideout – which was destroyed in 2011 – was constructed at the city’s Carriageworks. Local skaters were invited to compete and it also provided the backdrop for Parisian brand Faith Connexion’s first-ever runway show. Staying true to its roots as a melting pot marrying fashion with sports, art, music and culture, the Sydney offering pulled in global brands to present and sell – some for the first time – to an Aussie audience, among skateboarders, street art, DJ sets and a performance by Zimbabwean rapper Young Tapz. MADE’s fashion director, Ruth Gruca, explained, “We were really careful when selecting the brands that would be included in the event. We wanted to introduce new brands to this market while also giving designers from Australia the opportunity to showcase their product. It was important to us that brands had a connection with skaters and street culture.”

While both Sydney and Melbourne have their own tried-and-tested fashion weeks, the country as a whole has remained virtually untouched by the attention that cities like Paris, Milan, London and New York receive. Often brushed aside as a place where beach and swimwear reign supreme, it’s easy to neglect a thriving culture dedicated to fashion. With MADE’s aim to offer an alternative way to consume, enjoy and purchase brands that aren’t often sold within the country, by doing so, it’s renegotiating Sydney’s place on the fashion calendar.

As the dust settles on the city, we recap the moments that cemented MADE’s importance down under.

IT BROUGHT EMERGING INTERNATIONAL BRANDS TO AN AUSTRALIAN AUDIENCE

A huge marketplace-like set-up, dubbed “The Stores”, brought NYC’s MadeMe, Copenhagen’s Soulland, and London’s Places+Faces, to an international audience. Whereas local names such as cult streetwear brand Pelvis, Daisy – who, even though are based in Sydney, sell exclusively through Opening Ceremony – as well as ex-Christopher Kane designers, Amanda Cumming and Kate Reynolds’ brand Pageant, turned out. LESSONS Concept Store  travelled cross-country from Perth in order to bring their pop-up – a mixture of Hood By Air, MISBHV, Knomadik and Rick Owens’ DRKSHDW – that continues to sell out in the store, proving that the west coast’s fashion scene is more underground than ever imagined. All the brands and stores were carefully handpicked by Gruca herself, who told us, “We wanted to introduce new brands to this market while also giving designers from Australia the opportunity to showcase their product. It was important to us that brands had a connection with skaters and street culture.”

AFTER TEN YEARS, FAITH CONNEXION HAD ITS RUNWAY DEBUT

Parisian cult label, Faith Connexion, which is now over a decade old and counts Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Kim Kardashian amongst its clientele, presented its first-ever runway show featuring both menswear and womenswear. Staged on the Hubba Hideout, 16-year-old Poppy Starr Olsen – dubbed the world’s best female skateboarder – opened the show by kick-flipping a set of stairs. She was followed by an army of mostly street-cast models, a direct reaction of casting director Kurt Johnson’s frustration at the lack of diversity he was finding in agency books. The collection itself was grunge inspired and, by utilising a network of creatives rather than one designer, felt multi-dimensional and energetic. While we know that former Balmain creative director Christophe Decarnin is involved, most of the designers remain anonymous, with Gruca explaining that this enables even greater freedom of ideas and execution.

Sunset-dyed fringed cha-cha trousers paired with a safari shirt, a leather gilet with zebra-print boardshorts and a sequined hand painted body con dress all made an appearance in the 40-model strong show. Gruca discussed the synergy between the brand and the skate spot, saying, “Their brand philosophy is to work with a collective of creatives who understand what is currently happening in culture, as opposed to working with just one main designer. Hubba Hideout was the proving ground for skaters in the 90s and 00s so it drew skaters from around the world. So in a sense, it also was melting pot of styles and ideas that is not dissimilar to Faith Connexion and MADE’s brands.”

ONE OF NEW ZEALAND’S MOST PROMISING HIP HOP TALENTS, YOUNG TAPZ, PERFORMED

Previously having toured with G-Eazy, A$AP Ferg, and Hermitude, Zimbabwean-born, New Zealand-based rapper, Young Tapz, was brought on stage for a high-energy performance. With influences from Green Day to Michael Jackson and the hip-hop scene he now finds himself nestled comfortably in, such as Kid Kudi, Kanye West, and Drake, Tapz is single-handedly pushing the NZ scene forward in ways not yet seen on the North and South islands.

EVERY STREET ARTIST’S DREAM BECAME A REALITY

Being given the opportunity to spray paint your imagination across a brand new Mercedes-Benz is potentially every street artists’ dream. For French artist Pisco Logik – a member of the Faith Connexion network – it became a reality when, inspired by the United Nations, he covered the car in the spray painted version of the washed out silk flags featured in the Faith Connexion ss17 collection.

Elsewhere, local artist Egyboy customised a series of skate decks to be awarded to the winner of the Hubba Hideout skate competition, hosted on Sunday. Jono Power was crowned the winner and also received a 14 karat gold chain and accompanying Mercedes-Benz badge as a medal.

PLACES + FACES SHUT DOWN THE AFTERPARTY

If there was one way to close out the first day of MADE, then it was definitely with Aux God, aka P+F’s Ciesay, at Sydney’s Club 77. Hosted by SETTINGS° – an art-directed event that aims to showcase emerging Sydney RnB/rap/hip hop DJ’s and music producers all-the-while combining influences from fashion, photography and design – the DJ and photographer dropped a signature mix of everyone from Justin Timberlake to Skepta and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. There couldn’t have been a warmer – in fact, sweatier – welcome for the UK export who has lensed everyone from A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, and Skepta, and whose merch continues to crash the P+F website every, single time they drop it.

MADE Sydney took place at Carriageworks, 11-13 November 2016. Keep an eye on @ma.de and www.ma.de for upcoming events