Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Putting on a designer show on Fashion Week is no easy task, let alone bringing over the entire Fashion Week franchise all the way to Australia! Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and we go back to the roots of where it all stemmed from - fashion entrepreneur Simon Lock, owner and CEO of The Lock Group.

As always, my admiration for fashion entrepreneurs got the best of me, and was lucky enough to score an interview with the man himself. I heard from him first hand the challenges he faced on the first fashion week in Australia, and without giving away too many details, it's quite riveting. 

I decided to do a little fun interview with him, here is the down low:

Simon, would you like to tell us a bit about your book?

Yup, it's called "In The Front Row", and it was really written to celebrate 20 years of MBFWA, an event I started back in 1996. It's a book that really chronicles, not just the development of the Australian fashion, but also my career as well - what I'm doing now as well as what I've done in the past.

What inspired you to write this book?

Well, I guess it's the 20th year of fashion week, it's such a mile-stone for the fashion industry. And it has taken so many of us to get here, and I didn't want to miss the opportunity to tell that story, and also shine the spotlight on how most people made the event how it is. I thought a good way to do that is to write the book, not only to let fashion students know how it came about, but also who is responsible for it, and how we worked together to make it happen.

My blog is about entrepreneurship as well as fashion, so my readers will be interested in how you brought fashion week to Australia...

The book is really, in essence, about an entrepreneurial story. It really is. I mean, it was a really adventurous, entrepreneurial pursuit. It took four years of planning and fund-raising, and being completely innovative and building a business, to produce the event, because, you know, we had to build a company from the ground-up - a company that is capable of producing events like Australian Fashion Week, so that's really exciting. But now, 20 years on, the entrepreneurial story is still going. I just launched, and it is now an online wholesale platform. It does the same thing as all the fashion weeks - showing top designer collections to retailers. And so, it's joyous on this 20th year. Now for the first time, not only buyers sitting in the front row can see the great Australian designers, but 2,500 thousand of the best retailers around the world who couldn't come to this event, can now see these collections and buy them online. So that's a real milestone. It started off and continued as an entrepreneurial journey, so we'll see.

Is your company The Lock Group?


And that's the one that owns fashion week?

Yup, The Lock Group started in 1989, so it's 25 years old now, and The Lock Group has started Australian Fashion Innovators, which is the event that started Australian Fashion Week. 

How does IMG come into the picture of Fashion Week? 

I sold one of my companies, Australian Fashion Innovators to IMG. So they now own and operate Australian Fashion Week, and I'm still the founder of the event, and still very much involved.

So are you still a director...?

No, I'm not with the company anymore, no, no, no. I'm purely the founder of the event, so I was CEO of the event for 15 of the 20 years. The last 5 years, I've stepped aside and developed my new business - 

And you're still very much connected to Fashion Week?

Well, absolutely. Every year, I attend the events, I am speaking at the opening ceremony this year. I'm still there searching for new designers to help and support, and supporting all my friends for many years. So yeah, I will always have an involvement forever with Australian Fashion Week. 

Is fashion week sort of like a franchise then?

No it's not, all of the fashion week internationally, they are either owned by industry associations. London, Paris and Milan are owned by industry associations. New York is owned by IMG. The industry association sold New York to IMG, as I did. And IMG also operates a number of fashion weeks around the world. Some are privately owned, and some are run by industry organisations. 

In terms of the business aspect, how do you see events such as VAMFF? Are they a competitor?

No, they very much sit comfortably alongside traditional trade fashion weeks. And in fact, fashion weeks around the world are becoming more consumer-focused. Like VAMFF, which is completely consumer focused. So if you look at MBFWA this year, two days out of the six are focused towards the public, and the other four days are for the industry. And so we are starting to see a far, far greater focus on consumers, than we are on the industry. And the reason being social media. Now, everyone in the world can attend any fashion week, sitting in the front row via Instagram. And so, people are seeing those clothes instantaneously, and they want those clothes. Designers are realising that there are more value in communicating to consumers now, than there is with the industry. So that's why we created our online platform. Business and business can be done online, and fashion weeks can focus more on consumers.

Simon P. Lock's new book In the Front Row: How Australian Fashion Made the World Stage, published by MUP, is out now. RRP $34.99

Photos by Zak Kaczmarerk

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