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For someone who had no idea that this would be his future, designer and eponymous label Blair Archibald is making waves in the Australian fashion industry. Last week, the Melbourne-based, New Zealand-born creative was announced as one of three finalists in the BT Emerging Fashion Designer Award for 2019 and kicking off the year in excellent fashion – both figuratively and literally – it is full steam ahead for his celebrated brand.

Described as “refined”, “minimalistic” and “genderless”, Archibald has captured the fashion community with his unique take on classic silhouettes and contemporary designs. Changing the menswear game in his homeland through conceptual ventures and his rework of classic tailoring, the cultural informality often seen Down Under is shifting with education, as is with an ever growing pool of gender-fluid labels. This education goes hand-in-hand – like this year’s application criteria in the BT Awards – with a strong focus on sustainable and ethical practices.

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“[Gender fluid designs] have always been a part of my ethos … even when I was studying and was always engrained in what I did because it was a reflection of my upbringing… It isn’t in the real obvious sense, but I continue it in my design philosophy,” Archibald explained.

“From the very beginning when I started, I was going to do everything myself and that was just a given. A huge part of that was because I wanted to continue learning,” Blair told ICON. “I also wanted to have an element of transparency with what I do, so people know more about the supply chain and can see first hand where everything comes from. That has always been a really important part of what I’ve been trying to communicate to people.”

After winning the prestigious Woolmark prize last year and making his debut at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, Archibald is breaking through the overseas scope. While in the past he has made his way across the water to Italy for the likes of design trade show Pitti Uomo, the designer still believes its important to remain “patriotic” to the Australian and New Zealand industry.

“We have our own signature, and if [labels] get compared to other designers overseas, that’s fine … we need to have a universal language anyway. It has to read to different audiences and different marketplaces … its imperative, you need to understand how everything is being communicated [overseas]. With such limited resources its only natural that designers will want to relocate but its still important to sustain some sort of industry in Australia. Support of bigger bodies like [BT Emerging Fashion Designer Awards] enable designers to continue to be able to do that or we’re looking at an industry that is completely based overseas.”

Selected from over 50 applications by an esteemed panel of industry experts – judges including Editorial Director Edwina McCann and designer Bianca Spender – the winner will receive a prize valued at over $100,000. Out of this, the designer will be awarded a cash grant, legal services, and a styled and shot look book amongst other opportunities.

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“When I did all the travelling last year and the year before, those kinds of things were really expensive but they are so necessary when you are trying to expand globally,” Archibald revealed. “I learnt a lot of things…designers I shared my experience with all said that I needed to return to make a mark and have buyers remember [me]. The BT Awards would be so beneficial in helping me reach those milestones.”

“One of the biggest things the competition offers is the legal and accounting mentorship programs, because one of the huge disadvantages of doing everything yourself is there are going to be things you just don’t know anything about.”

Now in its seventh year, the award has fostered the success of a number of Australian designers, all finding success in the global market, including Albus Lumen and Michael Lo Sordo. Blair Archibald will join Courtney Holm of A.BCH and Minhee Jo of Aaizél, and present their collections alongside some of Australia’s most successful designers at the BT Runway event on 11 April 2019, before a winner is announced on the same evening.

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