If there’s one person to know in the Melbourne fashion scene, it’s CEO of Melbourne Fashion Festival, Graeme Lewsey!

After graduating from his Bachelor of Arts Degree at RMIT University and briefly designing for his own fashion label, Graeme was awarded Australian Young Designer of The Year by The Woolmark Company which was then followed by over a decade of working with leading fashion brands, retailers and marketing agencies in Europe.

Not only that, but when Graeme returned to Australia in 1997, he was involved in the development of Australian Fashion Week in Sydney and joined the global team at IMG as a Senior Executive for the Asia Pacific region.

Graeme was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of Melbourne Fashion Festival Ltd. in May 2011 and continues in this role today. He also consults and volunteers with several organisations that enhance the growth and development of Australia’s creative industries.

Founder of Fashion Equipped and host of Fashion.Business.Mindset, Elizabeth Formosa, sat down with Graeme to chat about his early days as an award-winning designer, stepping into his role as CEO of MFF and, behind-the-scenes of running a world-class fashion festival!

Melbourne Fashion Festival

Melbourne Fashion Festival marks it’s 25th anniversary this year, making it the longest-running consumer fashion event in the country. This year, it will all be kicking off from March 11-20 March 2021 and will include a program full of fashion, arts, ideas, events which are accessible in person and online.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Graeme said he’s had to learn to be really nimble with organising the popular event this year.

“We had to be able to change at the drop of a hat and be prepared for multiple scenarios. But also ensure that we are relevant.”

Everything we as a country have gone through in the past year and Graeme’s cancer diagnosis (he’s in remission!) has really put things into perspective for him and is helping him focus on the positive.

Graeme’s Tip: Use this powerful scenario to bring your priorities, passion and purpose to the forefront. Grab a pen and paper and write down the following:

“If you only had a very short time left on this earth, what would be the top 10 ten things be that you wish you had done in life and business?” Develop a sound plan and go do them!

Why you should participate in MFF

The festival services consumers, industry stakeholders, designers and government outcomes. There’s no doubt that the consumer is critical and has always played the most important part when it comes to fashion – growth of a brand and their trajectory and it still does today.

The whole festival is built so that consumers can connect with designers and designers with retailers, so everyone benefits. Graeme says, “it helps create an economic stimulus across the board.”

Let’s think back to 25 years ago when MFF was born – there was no social media and e-commerce was definitely not around! This really gives consumers the power of becoming authorities in fashion. Considering all of those parts, you might be wondering ‘how does MFF influences all of those?’. Well, it has to do with their key pillars of fashion, arts and ideas.

“We don’t want to be dictators. We’re just facilitators, enablers and promoters of all sorts of facets in that industry.”

Now, if you’re a designer and want to reach the next steppingstone in your career, The National Designer Award held by MFF needs to be on your radar. This award showcases and celebrates Australian fashion’s rising stars and provides the winner with a business development prize pack, mentorship, networking and industry exposure to help shape the next phase of their career. They’re ultimately looking for designers who are the future of the Australian fashion industry, who have proved a great grasp on business acumen, who are outstanding at what they do and who are abundant in creativity.

MFF: Shop The Runway

Melbourne Fashion Festival really opens up that consumption pathway for festival attendees to get the most out of the shows. Here, you’re able to shop the latest collections from Australia’s leading designers straight from the runway via MFF’s new festival magazine.

“What does Melbourne Fashion Festival let you do? Shop the runway.”

The magazine is free to all ticketholders and will also include Q&A’s with your favourite fashion faces, the best street style shots and inspiration.

To listen to the full chat with Graeme , head to Fashion.Business.Mindset. The podcast is available now on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Deezer and Google Play!