The Future of the Fashion Industry with the Fashion Collective

Fashion Industry Insights From The Fashion Collective

We recently interviewed Andrew Claridge and Trudie Bristow from The Fashion Collective as they prepared for Afterpay Australian Fashion Week. During this, we got insights into their vision for the South East Queensland fashion industry, how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the industry and the role digital photography plays within the fashion industry ecosystem. 

For so many of us, fashion is our first creative outlet, an expression of ourselves and our personalities. For some of us, it may have been that princess dress you wore everywhere, or that Batman costume you refused to take off, even when your mother begged you to wear something ‘normal’. Fashion and the fashion industry is more than just the practicalities of what we are wearing, it is its own creative art. 

Andrew, with almost 20 years of experience in the fashion industry and having worked with leading brands like Dior and Vogue, what aspects of those brands would you like to see in the South East Queensland (SEQ) fashion industry?

Both Dior and Vogue are built on elegance, class and tradition; with both having a reputation for innovation within the industry. South East Queensland designers shouldn’t be afraid to push the boundaries and produce collections that are more sophisticated, that push creative boundaries outside the expected particularly for this region. 

Trudie, you are known for your creative vision and direction, what’s your process for bringing a brand’s ideal vision to life?

I find creative vision is so intimately attached to our emotions, so it’s fair to say that I’m a feeler. It’s important that where possible, I am able to meet face to face with clients at their places of business, production areas or studios. I find this assists me in developing my own visceral experience and reference around what they are wanting to achieve. 

There’s an old “sales” saying that if you want to make people buy something you need to make them feel something first. So I’m always looking for how we can draw on emotions and senses to connect to a brand’s target market.

You simply can’t work on any campaign or brief these days without taking all of this into consideration and pulling that through every facet of the project. My process is always centred around coming back to what mood and message they wish to create. I work from there to deliver on a brief that is always connected back to a brand’s roots.  

Andrew, you have worked on a variety of different productions across the globe, from Fashion Week to the MTV Video Music Awards and Australia’s Got Talent. 
Tell us about the biggest challenge/fail/crisis you’ve dealt with at a live event of that size? How did you bring it all together?

A few years ago, whilst working on a major event we had an incident that I can’t say too much about, but the incident caused a safety concern literally 30 mins before the show was to go up. 

This meant the showroom had to be evacuated, but the show had to go on. So we set up a completely new showroom in another space with full technical, seating and backstage in around 1.5 hrs while the audience waited. Every hand was on deck and everyone was doing things well outside of their roles in order to make this happen.

Trudie, your portfolio includes a number of charity events that bring together a multitude of creative industries. 
What do you think are the benefits of cross-collaborating artists from different creative avenues/disciplines?

I have a saying “no-one understands a creative like a fellow creative, we speak our own language.” If you get a group of creatives together you can literally watch the energy in the room become electrifying, with like-minded people connecting over shared experiences. When artists cross collaborate from diverse disciplines the results are infinitely more textured and layered with meaning, purpose and conversation. 

It also pushes creatives to diversify their own creative disciplines and understanding in a constantly fluid industry that doesn’t lay stagnant. It’s singly one of my greatest joys, to produce and manage events like this that bring diverse people together from various disciplines and see the new connections and opportunities that arise for creatives from these moments.

“No-one understands a creative like a fellow creative, we speak our own language.”

How do your roles at The Fashion Collective complement each other?

It’s easy for us to complement each other, because we share the same passion and vision for the fashion and creative industry especially here on the Gold Coast and South East Queensland. I am born and bred here, and have an intimate understanding and connection to what our local industry practitioners want to see change. 

As for Andrew, his international and national experience pushes that vision further to national and international recognised standards and expectations.

Put simply, Andrew is the visionary and I am the code breaker and communicator to push that conversation.

The Fashion Collective is known for bringing its clients’ vision to life. What is your vision for the SEQ fashion industry and how do you plan to achieve it?

We want to bring South East Queensland into the 2020s and beyond. We have a lot of incredible talent that is born in this region, but we keep losing our talent to Melbourne, Sydney and abroad; as they seek further education, development and opportunities. 

For this to change the vision needs to be led by exceptional industry experience, with a serious commitment to a long term plan that benefits not just the individual but the industry as a whole. 

The Fashion Collective is committed to fostering partnerships with local and state government, and strategic creative industry partners to achieve these outcomes.

Such relationships will allow for increased skill development and real-world industry experience opportunities of national and internationally recognised standards in our region. The result will draw attention to the pool of talent and creative infrastructure we have here, and will allow for the Gold Coast to be known as a competitive creative industry hub and production destination. It’s a plan that busts long-held stereotypes associated with this region as just being a sun, surf and a theme park destination that is stuck in the eighties.  

You’re eager to change the stereotype of Gold Coast fashion and culture; how is Gold Coast fashion perceived within the fashion industry?

When it comes to fashion designers there is no doubt that our region has given a start to nationally and internationally renowned talent who are respected in the industry. However, when it comes to the Gold Coast, we aren’t considered as a chic and fashion-forward and conscious city like our southern counterparts in Sydney and Melbourne. 

The impression is still held that all you will find here is blonde hair beach babes in bikinis with relaxed attitudes and ready to party. We’ve got some ground to make up to show that the fashion industry is on the rise here to meet the campaign and event production and consumer markets needs and demands.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the fashion industry, and how will it impact the future of the fashion industry?

There isn’t a facet of the fashion industry and its entire supply chain from sourcing and supply of raw materials, production, events, campaigns and more that hasn’t been affected by COVID-19. It’s an incredibly complex issue for an industry that pre-COVID, was under a lot of pressure regarding environmental and labour rights concerns. At every touchpoint of the industry from manufacturing through to events and retail; brands and businesses need to be seen as addressing these concerns within their business practices. 

When it comes to how the industry will look further along the supply chain you can expect to see even more digital innovation and adaptation than ever before.

But one thing needs to be made clear: not even the major international fashion houses have a crystal ball that shows them how the fashion industry will look five to ten years after COVID-19. It’s safe to say that those who wish to maintain their reputation and loyalty in the industry will pivot to a more conscious and considered approach about their impact and relationship to the global community and its consumers.

The creative industry is one that is constantly evolving, how important is it for creatives to upskill and develop their skills?

You’ve said yourself, the industry is constantly evolving. We all know that trends, technologies and techniques are forever changing, and therefore failure to stay relevant comes at a cost to the individual creative, right through to big business. 

Whether you’re a sole practitioner, or the CEO of a big business, major consideration needs to be given to the cost of upskilling, and how it should be considered as essential to one’s personal or business growth and longevity in the industry.

“Keep learning, upskilling and when you’re ready to start making connections in this business, over deliver on expectations.”

We live in the Instagram Age, where anyone can be a model or photographer. How do you see through the smoke and mirrors to know who is the real deal and who isn’t? 

This is something we are constantly consulting on with those trying to breakthrough in the industry. Sadly there are “sharks” at all levels of the fashion industry who are trying to make a dollar from talent who have big dreams of one day working with the world’s elite in fashion. So you need to do your homework, and be a detective to confirm the claims of so-called “professionals and agencies”. 

If claims from so-called professionals can’t support claims by a timeline, official endorsement, reference or testimonials from a client (brand/business) along with visuals you should have some alarm bells ringing.

What role does digital photography play within the ecosystem of the fashion industry?

Digital photography and social media have been a game-changer to the fashion industry, allowing thresholds between brands and their consumers to be crossed that were once for the fashion elite only. 

Designers and consumers have greater access and communication to one another, allowing for a direct conversation about who they are and what they value. It allows for designers and brands to pivot quickly if need be, and respond to consumer interests, demands and concerns.

The Gold Coast City Council has launched its Cultural Strategy 2023, which aims to recognise and nurture the creativity of local creative industries. How do you see this affecting the Gold Coast fashion industry?

For those of us working within the fashion industry, we expect to see the city deliver on increased opportunities that will allow for cross-collaboration in art, fashion, music and events. Therefore increasing career and work opportunities within our region and keeping talent here.

What advice do you have for our One76 creatives who’d like to get their foot in the door in the fashion industry? 

Straight up accept that it’s going to take time and hustle. You need to be humble

and ready to work your way up through the industry to be respected. 

You will be hard pressed in this industry to find a creative who is an overnight success, it takes time and commitment. 

Let us say too, that simply being a fashion lover isn’t enough to stick around for the long haul in this business. You need your passion to be scaffolded by fashion history and design knowledge, psychology and business. Align yourself with proven industry leaders and mentors, don’t be afraid to ask if you can intern and do a stint of work experience mentoring. 

Above all else keep learning, upskilling and when you’re ready to start making connections in this business, over deliver on expectations.   

Ready to take your dream of shooting world-class fashion shows to the runway? Level up your content at One76 Photo Studio, the Gold Coast’s home of digital artists. 

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