Yasmin Sewell, one of the world’s leading fashion and retail consultants, has slammed Australia’s department stores during a visit to Sydney for Fashion Week Australia.
Despite her own fashion label, Etre Cecile, being stocked by Myer, the Australian-born, London-based Sewell was bemused by our leading shopping precinct’s lack of innovation.
“I’m always disappointed by the retail,” she said.
“With Net-A-Porter, Matches and Farfetch, Australia are the top three customers, so why don’t we have the most phenomenal department stores? Kick ass department stores that are leading the world that have amazing spaces, amazing retail, beautiful merchandise and phenomenal marketing that is pushing boundaries, which is what I’m all about.
“I think they do a good job but I still think they underestimate the Australian customer and Australians are shopping. At one point every retailer came to me asking: ‘How do I get to Australia? How do I get to that woman?’ Because they are shopping, they all came to me. These department stores here didn’t,” she said.
Sewell is considered to be one of the world’s leading fashion experts. After successful senior creative tenures at Browns and Liberty in London, she is now the creative director for style.com, a new Conde Nast online shopping platform that allows readers to directly buy the items showcased in the US and British issues of Vogue and GQ.
“I think here they still underestimate that they can do phenomenal things and build an environment that people want to go to everyday, not just online, which is, of course, very important. But there’s no space, people want a space, they want to shop somewhere and eat somewhere and drink coffee and experience something and do something and it’s still not being done here.”
Net-A-Porter’s fashion director Lisa Aiken, who was in town scouting the next big names in local fashion at the Resort 2018 collections, confirmed that Australian shoppers were the online global retailer’s biggest customers.
“Australia is consistently in our top five best performing countries,” Aiken said. “We have three businesses: America, the UK and APAC [the Asia Pacific region]. APAC and Australia is our fastest growing region.”
While Myer declined to comment, group executive of merchandise at David Jones David Collins disagreed with Sewell.
“We certainly believe we are looking to the future. We are spending a lot of money in our stores to give customers a total, and exceptional, retail experience,” Collins said.
The South African-owned retailer will begin a two-year, $170 million refurbishment of the flagship Elizabeth Street store from September.
Customers will soon to be treated to express lifts to the menswear level, which will also feature a bar and coffee counter, a day spa and a new luxury footwear level that Collins predicts will be a “world-class destination”.
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