by Elizabeth Bornstein
Sydney Institute graduate Carlie Waterman has joined the select list of fashion graduates who have been crowned Australian Fashion Graduate of the Year. Carlie says she did not expect to win the award. “I was confident with my collection considering the amount of work that went into it throughout the year, but when I arrived at the competition the standard of the other students was so high, I thought that anyone could have won,” she says.
Winning the award does not guarantee instant success. “It’s such a competitive industry, I know I’m going to have to continue to work really hard,” Carlie says. “The last year of the Advanced Diploma was really demanding.”
Carlie believes that her consistency and work ethic gave her “a huge advantage” over her competitors. Working hard is something that she is familiar with. With an undergraduate degree in Architecture from the University of Sydney and an Advanced Diploma of Fashion from Sydney Institute, she has spent the past six years fine-tuning her design skills.
Past winners of the award have gone on to find great success, with 2008 graduate Dion Lee one recipient whose work has received international acclaim. Dion Lee’s self-titled label has been shown on runways across the world, with Dion making his debut at London Fashion week this year.
“There’s nothing that has ever stood in Carlie’s way of her trying to do this. Nothing is too difficult for her,” says Nicholas Huxley, director of the Sydney Institute’s Fashion Design Studio.
He has taught the last five winners of the award. His students’ success has earned him a reputation as one of the most respected figures in Australian Fashion. Mr Huxley’s high calibre list of former students includes fashion designers Alex Perry, Wayne Cooper, Akira Isogawa and Dion Lee.
The award is now one of the most highly regarded in the industry, recognised as a vehicle to help launch a promising fashion career. “It’s a big award, there’s a lot of competition,” Nicholas Huxley says. The top six design schools across Australia are each invited to nominate two students for the award.
“Once nominated, the students are interviewed by a panel about their collection and about their plans for the future,” he said. Mr Huxley had some advice prior to the competition. “I spoke to Carlie the night before the competition. I said ‘you’re delightful, you’re smart, you’re intelligent. Just be yourself and your garments will speak for themselves’.”
There were two runners up on the night – fellow Sydney Institute student Anna Langdon, and Melbourne’s Adrian Bressanutti. Praise was given for all three collections, with Edwina McCann, editor of Vogue, among the admirers. Ms McCann encouraged the guests to remember the names of the winners, suggesting they will be stars of the future.
As the Australian fashion industry battles to compete with increasing pressure from cheaper international markets, Nicholas Huxley holds great hope that Miss Waterman will play a part in shaping the future of Australian fashion. “This is what the industry needs. It needs a resurgence of innovation and creativity,” he said.