Jo Meldrum – The Flair Awards

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The Flair Awards began in 1994 in the pursuit of creating a regional fashion event that offered designers a platform to showcase their work publicly. The Awards quickly grew over the years, both in quantity and quality of garments, with Flair becoming a well-known and respected event among fashion circles, industry professionals and colleges. 

We caught up with Jo Meldrum, co-ordinator of The Flair Awards, to tell us about this year’s event …

What is required of you in your role as co-ordinator of The Flair Awards? 

My role as co-ordinator is not unlike that of any person who is involved in the entertainment or event management industry. I look at it as the pulling together of many elements to create a product; in this case, our end product is a show. A fabulous team of volunteers who work all year to create Flair assists me, and local business houses that lend their assistance also help us. Of course, there is the glamorous side of meeting fashion identities and new designers and following their careers, but all in all I would like to say that it is hard work to get this event happening each year – but we all love it.

Tell us about the importance of regional areas having access to leading fashion awards events…

With Flair being Australia’s leading fashion awards event, it has been exciting to see the role it plays in the journey of designers. Having the annual event situated in Taree on the Mid North Coast of NSW provides the opportunity for budding and accomplished designers to show their talents, be critiqued by experts and gain promotion through the media. The Flair Awards also provides networking opportunities and connections to Australia’s capital cities, where the fashion industry is most prominent. It really enables designers to get their foot in the door, to what is an extremely competitive industry to break into.

The awards attract a high profile judging panel, plus industry guests … 

This year we are excited to announce that our judging panel will consist of Prue Hawkins – Head Designer of Cue, Lauren Lee – 2010 Flair Awards Designer of the Year, and JoJo Marquez – Owner and Head Designer of Arushie Couture.

What are the various categories designers can enter into, and how are the awards critiqued?

There are nine major categories and nine minor categories available for designers to enter into. The major categories this year include Red Carpet, Cocktail, Swimwear, Bridal, Generation Y, Cup Day, Rags to Riches, Tailoring and Avant Garde. Designers are invited to enter into each major category and as many minor categories as they wish. Each category has different criteria as to how it will be judged, but across the board the judging panel is looking at garment originality, aesthetics, quality of fit and workmanship. Each year brings new and unique designs reflecting current industry trends, although there are always surprises among the winners.

A Designer of the Year is chosen from the winners of each major category … how does this work?

Judging takes place a week before the event, and a winner is chosen for each of the Major Categories. Then the Designer of the Year is selected from these winners, so that the Designer of the Year not only wins that prize, valued at $8,000, but they are the winner of a Major Category. Major Category winners win $1,000 in cash, but also some of the categories have a work experience component with leading fashion houses in Sydney. Also, all Major Category winners receive a sketch program from Illy Strate.

Do you have a design theme running through this year’s awards?

We do not suggest a theme to run through the awards, as all entries should either reflect current trends or the entrants’ individual take on what is currently happening in fashion. 80% of our entries are from fashion students, and these students are encouraged to look beyond what is currently happening in fashion; so what the Flair audience sees is a view to the future.

Why is the world of fashion notoriously difficult for up-and-coming designers to navigate?

Aside from the fashion industry being extremely competitive, it is also ever changing; this makes it hard to navigate a specific career path – especially for emerging designers. Fashion is always about what is new and fresh – even if this draws on past trends! What is current and who is in the spotlight is not usually everlasting, so designers and those in the industry always have to change their ways of thinking and doing.

All designers want to create something innovative, unique and most importantly, desirable, and those who are successful have found a way to get it right. Designing the garment is only half the battle; once the designer has an idea, they must first sample it, include it in a collection, present it to buyers, and then have the garments manufactured – each posing their own set of problems. Then designers must promote their work and themselves in a constantly changing world of technology

Words of advice for aspiring designers?

Research, research, research, stay true to your beliefs, keep up with technology, and do not let anyone push you along a path that you are not comfortable with; but most of all, have fun!

Thank you Jo. Interview by Karen Farrell.

This story was published in issue 65 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus

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