May 1, 2008
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Euro-chic tailored for the beach at Australian fashion week

May 1, 2008

SYDNEY, May 1, 2008 (AFP) - Movie star Audrey Tautou is her biggest fan, but French-born, Sydney-based fashion designer Laurence Pasquier is keeping her feet on the ground as she attempts to match Euro-chic with Aussie informality.

French-born Sydney-based fashion designer Laurence Pasquier
Photo : Greg Wood/AFP

The 32-year-old, who is promoting her eponymous label at this week's Australian Fashion Week, knows that she needs more than a Hollywood name if her clothes are to win admirers on the sun-blasted island continent.

Her latest range, which includes light-weight cotton shift dresses and finely-sewn sheer blouses, has been developed with the relaxed Australian lifestyle in mind, she told AFP.

"Definitely it's got a French signature to it but I had to adapt it to Australia," she said.

"The shape and the tailoring are really very European, but I think the fabrics for Europeans would probably be (considered) resort collection."

Tautou, the star of "Amelie" and "The Da Vinci Code," has known Pasquier since they were small children growing up in Montlucon in central France.

The actor, who travelled to Sydney last year to launch her friend's label, has described Pasquier's designs as "bringing a touch of France to Australia".

Pasquier herself is steeped in the Parisian fashions of Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Dior, having worked at an invitation-only, pret-a-porter showroom on the Left Bank.

"That's where I realised that I love handling the threads," she said.

Her passion for fabrics saw her embark on a year-long trip to Asia, during which she sourced material and styles from China, Vietnam, Cambodia, India and Nepal before her love for an Australian man landed her in Sydney in 2001.

"It's a love story. That's why I'm here," she said.

Pasquier quickly realised that the Australian domestic market was extremely small but, even as she took a job in a local designer's shop, she kept alive "the idea of a label of my own".

"In less than a year I started in parallel my own label," she said. "From there it just grew organically."

Her designs are now sold in boutiques in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, as well as Britain, India and Canada.

She said Australian designs suited to warmer weather were attractive to Asian buyers, who have no need for the heavy winter attire required in North America and Europe.

"I guess that's why Australia works for them," she said.

More than 100 international buyers have packed out the catwalk viewings at Australian Fashion Week, sitting in the front rows alongside the likes of Hollywood starlet Mischa Barton, US rapper Eve and singer Dannii Minogue.

Tjut Devi, an Indonesian-based Australian government trade official at the shows, said Asian buyers were increasingly looking Down Under for lighter, fresher clothes from the likes of Willow, Sass and Bide and Wayne Cooper.

"For Australian fashion, they (buyers) are looking more into materials that are not heavy because it's hot and humid in Indonesia," she told AFP.

"We love to layer rather than just one heavy coat which would never work in Indonesia."

Devi said while buyers were still devoted to the fashion shows of the northern hemisphere cities of Milan and Paris, there was a good fit in terms of climate with Australia and they always had an eye for "new designs, new creations, something different".

Australian Fashion Week, one the country's biggest fashion events, got off to a shaky start ahead of its opening on Monday over a decision to allow a 14-year-old girl to strut the catwalk.

Organisers reversed the decision and said they would not hire the girl, citing "industry and community concern regarding the acceptable age for models".

They later agreed to a minimum age of 16 for models, recently adopted by other fashion cities such as London and Paris.

Australian Fashion Week closes on May 2.by Madeleine Coorey

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