Models, from left, Jade (wearing House of Skye), Samara (Palm Swimwear), Simon (Amicus Collective), Ebony (BRUUG) and Olivia (One Fell Swoop). Picture: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

In a competitive - and in some cases, struggling - fashion retail market, how do you get the message out about up-and-coming designers?

For Perth-based event producer Simon Crossland, it's not necessarily about targeting a limited audience by holding exclusive parades, bombarding the public with social media messages, or trying to slap a frock onto a B-grade celebrity.

Instead, he has created the Bayside Festival, a "boutique" festival fusing music, fashion, food and wine, live art and dance. Based on similar types of festivals in the eastern states, Bayside will expose the local designers it is featuring to a wider crowd, beyond the comparatively small but passionate group of hardcore fashion followers in Perth.

The event, to be held at Mounts Bay Sailing Club this weekend, will feature an array of WA labels, some established, some brand new. One Fell Swoop and Generics Accessories will showcase their latest collections alongside Natasha Butler's label BRUUG, House of Skye, and two recently launched brands, Palm Swimwear and new menswear label Amicus Collective.

"In Perth, festivals tend to be very music based, which limits the experience of the patron," says Crossland, the director of events company Three Cross Management.

"We wanted to create a boutique festival which offers a wide range of arts, from designer fashion to hair and make-up artistry, live art, gourmet food, boutique beer and cocktails."

For event producer Jacqui Brown, well-known in the WA industry for her passionate support and promotion of local designers, the fashion presence is a crucial element of this inaugural festival.

"The crowd we're expecting are definitely more style-conscious than the usual festival-goers and we felt that was a great platform to showcase these designers," she says.

"Many WA labels have a relaxed aesthetic due to the nature of our laid-back lifestyle and they all showcase that in different ways.

"BRUUG is all about easy-to-wear classic fashion pieces, One Fell Swoop is known for their beautiful draped fabrics, Palm Swimwear focuses on sports luxe swimwear and Amicus designs classic 'hipster tees' for men."

Brown agrees that designers and publicists need to find new and fresh ways to get the work of local talent into the consciousness of the clothes-buying public. It's all very well to have an active presence on social media, but if this doesn't translate into actual sales, fledgling brands will continue to struggle.

"By working on things like Bayside Festival we are trying to create a real fashion culture in Perth," she says.

"The great fashion capitals of the world are great because the locals put more effort into the style of their wardrobe, their houses and their workplaces. For Perth to become more style-conscious, people need to support the local fashion industry rather than just buying from the larger chain stores."

Brown has been working in fashion production for a decade and remains positive about the outlook for emerging fashion designers who want to remain based in Perth.

"The internet has definitely given designers the opportunity to sell nationally and internationally while being based in Perth, but I do think growth has to come from a support network within," she says. "In a time when a lot of other economies in other countries are really struggling to stay afloat, the local fashion industry seems to have retained its originality and creativity. There's a really strong support network in place, which makes it a very exciting time to be working out of WA."

And if the idea of gourmet fare appeals to you more than fashion, Brown suggests you go along with an open mind. You might just discover a designer - or that perfect dress you have been looking for all summer.

The West Australian

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