Lisa Havilah, Kit Willow, Alix Higgins, Melanie Levis & Justin Levis. Credit: Supplied

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: The sails were nearly blown off the Sydney Opera House when Australian designer and sustainability pioneer Kit Willow was announced as the winner of the Sustainable Designer Of The Year category at the 2023 Australian Fashion Laureate Awards.

A long-time advocate for fashion’s circular economy—one in which its makers, its market and Mother Nature all benefit—the designer appeared overwhelmed with the news she was taking home a statue, and the room erupted in applause.

“Fashion is a tough road and to come back a second time with the sole purpose of creating with a conscious vision…” the designer began. “We do need change and being able to make that happen is the only reason I’m doing label number two. It had to be done with purpose. There is so much fashion around and so many more solutions too.”

Kit Willow of KitX. Credit: Supplied

Elsewhere, Christopher Esber, who just showed for the first time internationally at Paris Fashion Week, was awarded the Designer Of The Year award. With a stronghold over the international ‘It girl’ market for years now, the gong was overdue. Twenty-nine-year-old wunderkind Alix Higgins took home the Emerging Designer Award, and Denni Francisco of Ngali received the Indigenous Designer Of The Year award.

Denni Francisco
Denni Francisco of Ngali. Credit: Rob Tennent

The former CEO of Carriageworks and now CEO of the Powerhouse museum Lisa Havilah was awarded the Carla Zampatti Award for Excellence in Leadership for her years of transforming Carriageworks into the home of the AAFW’s heart-thumping runways. And, Rodney Levis AM, the founder and chairman of Cue Clothing Company was recognised with the Australian Fashion Laureate Lifetime Achievement Award for his significant service to the fashion retail and manufacturing industry, and the community.

Rod Levis of Cue Clothing Co. Credit: Myles Kalus

“The Australian Fashion Laureate champions the best in Australian fashion and this year’s winners showcase the diversity of skilled creatives and professionals who have contributed to Australian fashion’s cultural and economic impact,” said Natalie Xenita, Vice President-Managing Director of IMG Fashion Events and Properties, Asia-Pacific. “It’s our privilege to come together in celebration of their accomplishments and leadership in the company of our esteemed peers.”

See a full list of the winners below:

Designer of the Year, presented by SOHO House: Christopher Esber

Emerging Designer of the Year, presented by BYHEALTH: Alix Higgins

Indigenous Designer of the Year: Denni Francisco, Ngali

Sustainable Designer of the Year, presented by The Volte: Kit Willow, KITX

Carla Zampatti Award for Excellence in Leadership: Lisa Havilah

Australian Fashion Laureate for Lifetime Achievement: Rodney Levis