5 September 2013

Austin Moro: Big Fish, Little Pond

Words: Saskia Edwards

Images: Jonathan Rae

They say a goldfish grows to the size of its bowl.

According to Austin Moro, designer, QUT fashion graduate, top 10 finalist for ‘Australians in New York Foundation Internship Prize’ and emerging designer awardee, Brisbane is more like a puddle.

Austin says there’s limited support for designers in Australia compared to Britain or the U.S. where local designers are “spoon fed” opportunities. He adds that successful designers in their 20s and 30s are either funded by their government or parents, exemplified by Mary Katrantzou and Alexander Wang respectively.

While Austin is reticent to criticise Brisbane, he concedes isolation and a mentality of fashion assimilation means designers have a limited options in Australia.

“If you want to have a design career that’s fulfilling, you can’t stay in a place like this,” he says.
“There’s no money here. It’s as simple as that.”

However, the small fashion community that does exist in Australia has certainly endorsed Austin.

Frequent customer of Stephen Jones and fashion spearhead Deborah Quinn commissioned an ensemble by Austin, which she donned to the Royal Ascot races. British Fashion Council's ambassador for emerging talent Sarah Mower noticed the outfit and has been corresponding with Austin about his design future.

But Austin plans to do something about the size of his bowl - he moves to New York in six weeks.

“We leave in 40 days… no 39 days,” he says.

But who’s counting?

When Austin began describing New York it seemed like the opening to Woody Allen’s Manhattan – everything faded to a monochrome.

He adored New York City. He idolised it all out of proportion.
 Uh, no. Make that "He romanticised it all out of proportion. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.” Uh... no. Let me start this over.
Chapter one
He was too romantic about Manhattan, as he was about everything else. He thrived on the hustle, bustle of the crowds and the traffic. To him, New York meant beautiful women and street-smart guys who seemed to know all the angles. Ah, corny. Too corny for a man of my taste. Let me... try and make it more profound.
Chapter one.
He adored New York City. To him, it was a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture. The same lack of integrity to cause so many people to take the easy way out was rapidly turning the town of his dreams... No, it's gonna be too preachy. I mean, face it, I wanna sell some books here.
Chapter one.
He adored New York City, although to him it was a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture. How hard it was to exist in a society desensitised by drugs, loud music, television, crime, garbage... Too angry. I don't wanna be angry. Chapter one. He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Behind his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat.
- Woody Allen

When in the Big Apple, Austin hopes to intern for a large fashion house. He toys with the idea of Marc Jacobs, an opportunity seemingly unfathomable for most young Australian designers.

But Austin sees the advantage of growing up in the Brisbane fishbowl.

“I think growing up in an environment like this is really beneficial. It makes you want it more and we have this hard work mentality in Australia.

“If you’re born in a place with so much opportunity I think you become complacent.
“It’s like the child who never had any money and then won the lotto.”

Austin also created a capsule collection for Blonde Venus, a pillar of progressive fashion in Brisbane. While more accessible than his other collections, it still maintains Moro’s aesthetic. Palm trees, abstract floral designs, pastel colours are motifs throughout the collection and are redolent of Austin’s previous work.

With all of these accolades and new risks Austin is somewhat being thrown into the fashion ocean. But for this big fish, it’s a case of sink or swim.

“I have a lot of flaws in everything else in my life, but design’s one of those things I never questioned about myself,” he says.

“…I can’t do anything but this, so that’s the path you have to take.”

(Pictured: Austin Moro with his Blonde Venus collection)

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