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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Australia's fashion industry is putting on the glitz for its major annual show next week with prospects brighter after the financial crisis and rising global interest in a new guard of Down Under designers.
Last year's Rosemount Australian Fashion Week was 15 percent smaller than the previous year with only 41 shows which mirrored similar cuts at shows in the major fashion capitals of London, Paris, New York and Milan.
But Daniel Hill, general manager of event organizer IMG Fashion Australia, said interest had picked up this year with more than 60 shows scheduled between May 3-7 and over 165 registered international buyers and media, up from 134 last year.
International buyers attending Australia's 15th annual fashion week includes Selfridges and Net-A-Porter from Britain, Fred Segal and Urban Outfitters from the United States, and a significant increase in interest from Japan.
"Last year was tough around the world but Australian designers are pretty resilient and this year is looking really positive with a strong schedule," Hill told Reuters.
"Australia is seen as a market that can provide something different to international buyers and, while we have the established names, we also have the new guard, like Dion Lee, Konstantina Mittas, and Romance Was Born, which are targets for buyers coming here."
The 2010 fashion week got off to an early start when designer Carla Zampatti opened up her Sydney mansion this week to show her new spring/summer 2010/11 collection of sleek, fitted suits, crisp shirts, and taffeta and organza evening-wear.
Zampatti is not the only high profile designer opting to do her own show outside fashion week or invest in showing at New York or London fashion weeks instead which get greater coverage. Other notable absentees this year are Sass and Bide, Wayne Cooper, Bowie, Willow and Collette Dinnigan.
But many local designers believe it is as important to focus on their own backyard and Australia as the overseas market.
"Show in New York, show in London and all of that, but support the industry - because that's the message we should be putting out there," a spokesman for Australian designer Jayson Brunsdon said in a recent article.
Australian Fashion Week officially kicks off on Monday with a show by Australian fashion doyenne Lisa Ho whose dresses have been worn by the likes of Ivanka Trump and singer Delta Goodrem.
Other established designers showing during the week include Jayson Brunsdon, Camilla and Marc, Alex Perry, Zimmerman and Ksubi whose show will close the week.
For up-and-coming, edgier Australia and New Zealand labels like Romance Was Born, Therese Rawsthorne, Friedrich Gray and Stolen Girlfriends Club, the event is a good platform for international exposure as well as generating local publicity.
A report by retail analyst IBISWorld Australia, released to coincide with the Australian Fashion Week, said local players needed to think globally and focus on new markets to survive.
IBISWorld Australia's General Manager Robert Bryant said Australian fashion has a reputation globally for quality and innovative design, particularly at the top end, but the luxury market was seen declining 2.4 percent this financial year.
Profits in Australia's domestic clothing retail industry remain flat with revenue expected to nudge up 1.3 percent to $11.91 billion this financial year but with conditions improving and revenue forecast to rise to $13.9 billion by 2015.
"With brands such as Willow and Sass & Bide already well established overseas, we believe more entrepreneurial local designers will begin to carve names for themselves in foreign markets - and they'll head for new frontiers," Bryant said in a report.
"Many Australian labels have cracked the UK and New Zealand, but innovative designers with a fresh take are looking to strike now, before boom times, into emerging fashion markets such as Indonesia, India and China."
Editing by Miral Fahmy