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Video: Mercedes-Benz Presents Aje

Every year at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, the 'Mercedes-Benz Presents' program recognises an Australian designer who embodies a sense of sophistication, innovation and quality.

This year, Australian fashion house Aje has been selected as the keynote designer. The label, which is known for its effortless feminine designs, will kick off Fashion Week on Sunday May 12 with a runway show revealing its highly-anticipated resort 2020 collection.  

At a recent photo shoot, founders Edwina Forest and Adrian Norris spoke to us about the qualities that make Aje such a perfect partner for Mercedes-Benz. They also opened up about their influences and what this opportunity means to them as designers.  

Adrian Norris and Edwina Forest of Aje (right) were a highlight at this year's luncheon. They appeared as the 2019 'Mercedes-Benz Presents' designer.

Fast-paced Ladies Day Luncheon jump-starts the F1® Australian Grand Prix

The Mercedes-Benz Ladies Day Luncheon kicked off the Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2019 with an event every bit as fast-paced and glamorous as the on-track action to follow across the weekend.

Beneath stunning blue skies, about 300 invited guests enjoyed Middle Eastern-themed canapes prepared by Shane Delia, the owner of Melbourne dining institution Maha, and a long-time Mercedes-Benz Friend of the Brand.

The undoubted hit of the luncheon was the chance to hear from Edwina Forest and Adrian Norris, who collectively make up the uber-fashionable Aje brand and are the coveted ‘Mercedes-Benz Presents’ designer who will lead off Australia’s most prestigious fashion festival, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, in May. The pair presented a five-piece edit exploring their Noosa-based brand’s much-loved values of ‘tough femininity’, ‘raw beauty’ and ‘effortless cool’.

Forest and Norris (off frame) explained Aje's pieces before they were modelled to the crowd.  

The guests were also among the first in Australia to see and touch the Mercedes-Benz EQC, the company’s first-ever fully-electric production vehicle. The history-making family-sized SUV with an all-electric range of up to 450 kilometres drew many admiring glances in its first public outing in Australia, well ahead of the expected arrival of customer cars later in 2019.

Other stunning vehicles to be displayed included the new Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe, which is the company’s fastest four-door production vehicle, and the tough Mercedes-AMG G 63, the latest iteration of the famous off-roader that turns 40 years old in 2019.

“Being here today amongst the fast cars, the food and fashion, I think this is the ultimate experience on what happens to be the 11th Mercedes-Benz Ladies’ Day,” event MC Magdalena Roze told the glamorous audience, which included celebrities such as model Jessica Hart, TV presenters Laura Dundovic and Kate Peck, fashion designers Helen O’Connor, Yeojin Bae and PE Nation founders Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning, and the Face of the Formula 1® Australia Grand Prix 2019, Kirsten Clemens.

Words Steve Colquhoun

Camilla & Marc lead the charge at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

Mercedes-Benz is synonymous with fashion in Australia, and powerhouse label Camilla & Marc are among the hottest properties in Australian fashion.

The marriage of the two, for the coveted ‘Mercedes-Benz Presents’ show to lead off Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, also completes a storyline that has been 15 years in the making.

It was in 2003 that the fledgling Camilla & Marc brand announced itself as ‘the next big thing’ with a standout show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia. Now, exactly 15 years later, the brand returns to the country’s premier trade fashion event with the top billing.

Owners Online spoke to the brand’s co-founders, Sydney siblings Camilla Freeman-Topper and Marc Freeman about the fairytale reunion with Mercedes-Benz.

OO: You have an intriguing history with the Mercedes-Benz brand that crosses over from the personal to the professional, don’t you?

Marc: Growing up, our father had a Mercedes, and I have fond memories of being in the back seat as a youngster with Camilla. Then, later in age, being able to drive and being able to take the Mercedes-Benz out on the open road and enjoy the ride.

Camilla: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia was our platform to launch the brand and they have been behind us ever since and it’s been an amazing time looking back over 15 years and all the experiences we’ve had.

OO: What similarities do you see between Mercedes-Benz and Camilla & Marc?

Camilla: The craftsmanship, the clean lines, the performance, the technology, the attention to detail. Camilla & Marc’s design aesthetic shares the similar values in craftsmanship, our attention to detail in tailoring, and the process which goes into each and every garment.

Marc: The qualities of our brand have great synergy to Mercedes-Benz. We make our garments to be timeless, to last, and to make the wearer really feel something, be the best they can possibly be.

OO: What has been the significance of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia for the local fashion industry?

Marc: The fashion industry in Australia is really strong, we now have a clear identity of who we are, and in part of that, there’s a strong identity around Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia.

Camilla: It’s a fantastic platform for young, and up-and-coming designers to present their collections and it gives them a global audience.

Interview by Steve Colquhoun
BFierce dancers, dressed in P.E Nation activewear. Images: Karon Photography.

Ladies’ Day kicks off Formula 1® weekend with customary glamour

Fashion, music, food and just a touch of motorsport were the order of the day as the 10th annual Mercedes-Benz Ladies Day kicked off the Rolex Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix with its customary serve of glamour and entertainment.

Invited guests nibbled on delectable Middle Eastern-inspired finger food cooked to order by chef Shane Delia, the creative force behind Melbourne’s Maha restaurant, while sipping on Champagne as the entertainment unfolded at the Star Lounge, nestled in its customary position on Turn 12 of the Albert Park racing track.

Sweet treats, by Karon Photography.

To a high-octane soundtrack as cars raced past mere metres away, a rap-dancing flash mob - the BFierce dancers, kitted out in activewear supplied by Mercedes-Benz Friends of the Brand, P.E Nation – grabbed the arriving guests’ attention.

After an introduction from master of ceremonies Antonia Kidman, folk-pop singer Vera Blue hit the stage for a three-song set appropriately including her hit single ‘Lady Powers’.

Former F1 driver David Coulthard, by Karon Photography.

The room came to a standstill as Antonia introduced former F1 driver David Coulthard, now a commentator and man-about-town, as he explained the privileged lifestyle of living in Monaco – where he has resided for more than 20 years – and following the pulsating excitement of the F1 circuit.

(From left) Camilla Freeman-Topper, Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning, by Karon Photography.

Next came a trio of high-profile fashion designers and Mercedes-Benz Australia Friends of the Brand - Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning, the creative team behind emerging active/leisurewear brand P.E Nation, and Camilla Freeman-Topper, one half of the women’s fashion juggernaut of Camilla & Marc.

Pip and Claire spoke about the inspiration driving the overnight success of their two-year-old brand, while Camilla related her family connection to Mercedes-Benz and their upcoming responsibility to be the prestigious ‘Mercedes-Benz Presents’ designer at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia in May.

S 63 coupe in selenite grey, by Karon Photography.

Guests also had the opportunity to peruse a wide variety of Mercedes-AMG vehicles, from the bright red GLA 45 that greeted guests on arrival, to a sleek S 63 coupe in selenite grey and the performance king of the AMG range, a Mercedes-AMG GT R in stunning ‘designo’ diamond white. A genuine replica of a Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport F1 car drew the attention of motorsport fans in the room.

Beneath cloudless blue skies, it all added to the perfect way to kick off Melbourne’s biggest party weekend of the year.

Words Steve Colquhoun

NGV stuns with sumptuous celebration of Dior

Spring came early to Melbourne with the National Gallery of Victoria throwing open the doors on its new fashion exhibition, The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture, which celebrates florals, colour and French design flair.

With the blossoms starting to bud across the city, there is no better place to celebrate the changing of the season than at this spectacular show, which presents 140 garments designed by Christian Dior Couture between 1947 and 2017.

Careful curation and thoughtful inclusions ensures the exhibition appeals equally to fashionistas as well as those less well versed in couture. The connection between Dior and Australia is strongly highlighted – Dior’s first show outside of France was in Australia in 1948 – and every visitor is sure to walk away having learnt or seen something new.

Discovering Dior
The exhibition spans multiple rooms, with creations from the seven designers who have led it over the decades, namely Christian Dior; Yves Saint Laurent; Marc Bohan; Gianfranco Ferré; John Galliano; Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri.

The influence of the New Look – first presented by Christian Dior in 1947 – is a theme that runs throughout the exhibition. In addition, the enduring influence of the flower, and all things floral, from all of Dior’s designers is highlighted. Christian Dior drew great inspiration from the flower, a legacy that current designer in Maria Grazia Chiuri continues to build on with her most recent creations.

Another notable exhibition feature is a double mezzanine space linked with a staircase, inspired by Dior’s Parisian headquarters. This rewards those who take the stairs with sweeping views through the exhibition space.

Getting interactive
In addition to the largest video presentation ever displayed by the NGV, dedicated to current couture designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, there is an interactive element in the form of two ateliers from Dior in France who demonstrate their fine-tuned skills and answer questions about their work and approaches.

Of course, as well as gorgeous dresses and gowns, there are also shoes, hats and perfumes. Milliner Steven Jones was on hand at the exhibition opening, where he spoke of his experiences of working with different Dior designers. “Working with John [Galliano] was extraordinary as each hat and outfit had its own story to tell. Ralf was a lesson in modernity. And working with Maria is also extraordinary – she wants to try the hats on, it’s very much about the reality but also the fantasy.” In addition to the displayed archived hats, Jones created some new headpieces especially for the exhibition.

Nicole Kidman at the inaugural NGV gala. Photo by Fiona Hamilton.

Gorgeous gowns
The exhibition’s grand finale is a beautiful room showcasing spectacular evening wear, which again subtly highlights links between Dior and some famous Australians. You’ll recognise Nicole Kidman’s famous chartreuse sheath dress that she wore to the 1997 Oscars. Plus, a last-minute addition was Australian model Miranda Kerr’s wedding gown. She only walked down the aisle in July 2017 but the curators knew they simply had to have the fairytale creation on display.

Words Lucy Siebert

The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture runs until 7 November. As a Mercedes-Benz owner, you can access complimentary entry for two people to the exhibition.

Mercedes-Benz Presents Harman Grubiša

Kiwi fashion label Harman Grubiša was awarded the prestigious Mercedes-Benz Presents accolade in New Zealand in 2016. We caught up with the founders, dynamic design duo Madeleine Harman and Jessica Grubiša.

What did it mean for you to be named Mercedes-Benz Presents 2016?
It was an honour. We’ve always dreamed of opening New Zealand Fashion Week. At two years into our business, it was a surreal moment for us, personally and professionally, to say the least. 

What have been highlights for you since then?
We’ve been working on building our accessories range – collaborating with a local jeweller as well as developing a capsule range of footwear to sit alongside our collections. It has been wonderful to see this come to life and be so well received. It’s gratifying that a woman can now wear top-to-toe Harman Grubiša.

What three words best describe the label?
Effortless Glamour (with much) Personality.

What types of fabrics are you typically drawn to?
Wool. Silk. Anything with a purity and that drapes beautifully. Of course, we do use manmade fibres but these often offer a different contribution in the way they wear or age, or in their colour. It keeps things interesting. There is so much innovation out there in the world of textiles – we are always learning and that is very inspiring.

Fast fashion is all around us these days – why is Harman Grubiša’s philosophy so different? ?
We are locally designed and made – it keeps us close to our design process from sketch, to make, to fit –and this keeps us in touch as ranges evolve. Each piece you buy from us is highly considered. We don’t adhere to a throwaway culture of dressing; we are about quality timeless styles. We feed back into our economy and are interested in the well being of our makers and of the industry as a whole.

How has being New Zealanders influenced your designs?
Being from the bottom of the world definitely provides a unique perspective. In many ways we are outsiders looking in on the fashion world.

Why were you each originally attracted to fashion?
Jessica: I can put this down to one moment – at a very young age I was watching a Christian Dior by Galliano couture show. From then onwards I knew wanted to create in the world of fashion. 
Madeleine: My background is art, design, painting and art history. As time went on, it became evident that design was inherent to who I am and I just wanted to contribute to creating beautiful things. 

How did you manage to meld each of your different creative visions so successfully?
It just works. It’s like magic. We are creative soulmates.

What do you have planned for the label for the second half of 2017 and into next year?
We have several projects under wraps at the moment but on the whole, we are moving into international expansion and wholesale growth currently while developing new product ranges further. 

How would you describe your personal styles?
Jessica: To me, fashion is about fun. I try to dress to my mood. Big personality, lots of joy and always big hair. 
Madeleine: I dress classic and considered but still modern – I’m always working a statement shoe.

You must travel a lot – what are your must-haves / top tips for when you are on the move?
Jessica: I always travel with Oribe Dry Shampoo – no matter what.
Madeleine: Shoes – well considered (often too many). We often get off a plane and head straight to our first appointment so I tend to carry all my must-haves with me to freshen up en route. 

Words Lucy Siebert 

Keep up with the latest on Mercedes-Benz Presents New Zealand 2017.

Video: Life of style – Vydia Rishie

Writer and stylist Vydia Rishie, of fashion blog the VR Verdict, arrived in style at this year's Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF), cruising between runway shows in a Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class 250d. We ask her what looks impressed her most, her favourite way to get from A to B and what's coming up next in the world of fashion.

How would you describe your style?
My style is always evolving and dependent on my mood and where I’m going. In saying that, my style has always been about creating a complete look – I’m always thinking about accessories, bags, shoes and all the details in between. I like things to be put together and polished, but still effortless.  

What were the key trends at VAMFF in 2017? 
Two trends that really stood out were power suits and anything in the colour red! [Labels] Romance was Born and Bianca Spender were the front runners for channeling this vibe and it was something to be seen not just on the runway, but out on the streets too.  

What most excites you about the world of fashion and design?
The people! I’m a bit of a social butterfly and love meeting new people. Hearing their stories and being around a creative vibe in general is always inspiring.  

Do you have a favourite Mercedes-Benz model?
It would have to be the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63. That AMG badge is just too cool not to love.

What has been the highlight of collaborating with Mercedes-Benz?
I’m actually a huge fan of cars, so having that crossover between fashion and cars has always been relevant to me. As a stylist, my car is basically my office, wardrobe, and desk for being on location, so of course I love driving a luxe, comfortable car with all the performance features.

What are your plans for the next few months of the year?
Lots more styling and a bit more travel, I’m super excited to be heading to Europe very soon.  

Interview by Nola James

See all the highlights from Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF)

A celebration of iconic Australian design

A highly awarded designer, world-famous model and acclaimed photographer, all hailing from Australia, came together to set the scene for an unforgettable Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia 2017 brought together icons of the Australian fashion and design industries – highlighted by an exclusive photoshoot with acclaimed photographer Georges Antoni and Australian model Montana Cox.

Antoni and Cox collaborated on the shoot at the visually stunning Carriage Works in Sydney, featuring the all-new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé.

Wearing a special creation by Mercedes-Benz Presents designer for 2017, Dion Lee, Cox dazzled alongside the brand-new, technically advanced vehicle. Lee’s garments feature structural design and stunning shapes, which perfectly complement the new E-Class Coupé.

The shoot set the scene for the week-long celebration of fashion and design, which kicked off at Australia’s most iconic building, the Sydney Opera House, where Lee presented his Resort Collection, sending models down the runway sporting another Australian icon – red Akubra hats.

 Find out more about Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia

Mercedes-Benz Ladies’ Day turns it on again

The hottest ticket in town, on a Formula 1 weekend jam-packed with exclusive opportunities, was the opportunity to attend Mercedes-Benz Ladies’ Day.

Around 300 ladies attended the stunning Mercedes-Benz Star Lounge at Melbourne’s Albert Park Golf Club, which has undergone recent refurbishment but still sits absolutely trackside with unfettered access to all the on-track action across the Grand Prix weekend.

In the ninth annual edition of the by-now famous event, guests sipped champagne and cocktails, grazed from a menu specially prepared by well-known chef and Mercedes-Benz Friend of the Brand Shane Delia, and had front-row seats to a spectacular runway show. Recently anointed Friend of the Brand, fashion designer Dion Lee, presented a stunning collection of spring garments that drew the collective admiration of an immaculately attired audience.

With another Friend of the Brand, television personality Brodie Harper, guiding proceedings, the ladies-who-lunched also had the opportunity to meet – and pat - the day’s other special guests, two Labrador guide dogs-in-training who represented the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix’s official charity, Guide Dogs Australia. That organisation’s marketing manager Charlie Spendlove, told guests about the vital work that guide dogs perform for their vision-impaired clients.

However, it was the appearance of so-hot-right-now designer Dion Lee that had the fashion-savvy crowd buzzing. Dion was recently announced as the coveted “Mercedes-Benz Presents” designer for the upcoming Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, an honour that places his brand at the forefront of Australian fashion.

Vogue Australia Editor Edwina McCann interviewed Dion before the appreciative crowd and said it was an “absolute coup” for Dion to lead off the annual MBFWA shows.

“It’s the biggest show of Fashion Week and launches a whole resort season with a new, unique collection, so it’s an absolute coup for the Australian industry,” she told the audience.

Dion described receiving the position as the “Mercedes-Benz Presents” designer as a “huge honour”. “I’ve been showing in Australia for many years now and more recently in New York, so to come back here and be the opening show is amazing,” he said.

Dion paid tribute to MBFWA as a huge influence on his career. “It was really the introduction to fashion for me, it’s something you would really look to as a young designer, as the platform that really did elevate our industry internationally.”

Guests were also offered 20 per cent off the Dion Lee instore range as thanks for their attendance. They snacked and sipped well into the afternoon on nibbles supplied by a pop-up version of Delia’s Middle Eastern-inspired Maha restaurant and a specially conceived cocktail menu. Racing cars roared by within mere metres of the delightful Star Lounge, a fitting prelude to one of the most action-packed events on the Australian sporting and social calendars.

Words Steve Colquhoun

Blogger Dalton Graham talks fashion as lifestyle

A decade ago, you would have had trouble finding many Australian or New Zealand men who took pride in the way they dress – let alone cared. But, with the advent of digital media, a perceptible shift has occurred that has seen men grow into well-informed, stylish shoppers. As street style websites, such as The Sartorialist, grew and offered a porthole into how those in Milan or Paris wore their suits, e-commerce platforms, such as Mr Porter and MatchesFashion.com, made those wares accessible for the first time.

Dalton Graham, also a talented AFL player for the VFL's Port Melbourne team, observed this shift, and having grown up surrounded by fashion (his father having worked in retail and manufacturing for nearly half a century), saw an opportunity to help fill a gap in the market.

“So many friends of mine didn’t have any idea of how to dress for certain occasions, or would ask me about great places to eat, or didn’t know how to pack for business trips, and so what started as a hobby became a business,” he explains of The Tailored Man, his menswear and lifestyle website that launched in January 2015. The focus, explains Graham, is to “offer honest, up-front, authentic information without too much fluff, to shape a lifestyle that’s achievable to the everyday guy, whether in food, design, fashion or whatever it might be.”

The key to the success of the website, which employs a team of seven, is, according to its founder, its accessibility. “Good style isn’t necessarily about spending a lot of money. It could be about an outfit from [high street retailer] Uniqlo, or spending $150 but getting value for money for that amount.”

With thanks to the content he produces, which features practical guides, news and reviews, as well as his innate understanding of the Australian male, Graham has been called on by various brands to assist in their marketing efforts, and hints at the possibility of expanding the business into an online store. This, he says, would be a natural extension of the aspirational imagery featured online, bridging the gap between information and transaction.

“I think as men when we trust the source, then we feel comfortable in investing, and so we want to take our readers’ trust and help them in their journey to living a stylish life.”

Words Mitchel Oakley Smith