The statement print of Michael Lo Sordo’s current collection is a digitised butterfly. With the cocoon outlining the waist of his signature figure-hugging dresses, the butterfly’s wings are mirrored in a wash of vibrant purples, blues and oranges.
Lo Sordo is amongst a number of young designers who have begun the localised shift of Australian fashion. “I wanted to put a special touch on our signature prints that not only make them identifiable to the brand but also exceed the current market,” he explains. “It’s kind of like palette cleansing for the next season.”
Always looking to the future, Lo Sordo’s focus is about moving forward while staying true to what the customer wants. “We stripped back the design elements to emphasise quality, cut and fabrication. This collection was more for the ‘Michael Lo Sordo woman’: what she wanted, what she needed and what she was asking for.”
With such a clear vision, it’s hard to believe that at his debut at Australian Fashion Week in 2008, he got hit with a bad review. It said that Lo Sordo was too young and too unknown to show his designs. “At first I wanted to slap her in the face” he reflected. “In my defence, if this writer was to write about my resources being stretched or had an understanding of the constraints on a young designers, I feel the article would have been better.” Now, after his eighth successful showing in less than five years he laughs, “When you prove your critics wrong; that is the biggest success.”
Lo Sordo began designing at Tafe after a change from culinary study to fashion. He quickly learnt the trappings, the contemporary market and how hard it is to build and maintain a profitable business, “I have to be a retailer, wholesaler, everything. Designers have to wear so many hats that!”
While studying in 2006, Lo Sordo achieved his first breakthrough being chosen as one of six designers to showcase their wares in the Strand Arcade. In the same year, he was named Young Designer of the Year at Sydney’s Propeller Fashion Show, all the while funding his fashion campaign by styling for SBS and merchandising for Giorgio Armani.
“What really gave me my kick start was QANTAS Spirit of Youth Award. With the media coverage I received I was the ‘next best thing’. It made my business look serious.” With QANTAS’ Fashion title, Lo Sordo acquired a year’s mentorship with leading label, Zimmerman. He went on to gain international recognition after becoming a finalist in the LMFF National Designer Award in 2012, enabling him to show at both New York and Milan Fashion Weeks.
“When I went to Milan with Woolmark, I was like oh my fucking God; I’ve made it here! To go from being Michael from Leichardt to being in the fucking Vogue offices with the fucking Vogue editor.” Lo Sordo attributes this meeting and much of his success to the Woolmark initiative, “Woolmark has been a godsend. We don’t have an initiative here that gives designers a financial kick-start. The closest thing we have is Woolmark.”
Michael Lo Sordo is also supported by number one Australian model export, Julia Nobis, who has opened a number of his shows. “Julia and I grew up in the businesstogether… She doesn’t need to support Australia but she does because she loves it and I’m lucky she wants to support me.” The list of his devotees doesn’t end there and Naomi Campbell, Kim Kardashian and Australian actress Phoebe Tonkin all have donned Lo Sordo’s designs.
Rachel Crocker, a representative from MLS stockist Eco D, commented on Lo Sordo’s progression from print cocktail dresses to his ground breaking mix of fabrics and shapes. “Definitely more minimalist than before, however, the exposed zips, seaming and fit are still quintessential Michael. The smallest of details make broad statements and Michael capitalises on this.”
Lo Sordo combines tailoring with manipulated fabrics to create what seems improbable. His backwards shirting, pleated skirts, tailored suits and streamlined silhouettes with masculine flare are exemplary. He also explores femininity by juxtaposing delicate frills constructed from heavy fabrics to create a three-dimensional effect. “The design should look effortless, despite the amount of detail I put in.” Lo Sordo even instructs his models to walk slowly so the audience can capture each finite detail of the structure. “The aesthetic is still the same,” he assures. “Just an evolution of what we are and what we do. I’m not competing with the retailer by setting new trends. That is what a designer is supposed to do.”
When asked to pinpoint his most prized achievement, Lo Sordo paused before naming his recent collection as the next phase of his design development, “I feel as if this is a new beginning for MLS.”
So where to now? “Australia is still an emerging market so we have restrictions. It’s inevitable for me to go overseas.” However, the cliché of fashion is one day you’re in and the next day you’re out. Lo Sordo shrugs off this implication, “our signature is to be one step ahead. I’d love to grow the label into a lifestyle brand, to create a Michael Lo Sordo concept.”
In a youthful market like Australia, it is industry support that enables the longevity of a brand. Lo Sordo sees things differently. He is determined to make the industry take responsibility for its future by leading by example and inspiring his own butterfly effect. “In order for this industry to grow, we need to support it. Designers are taking back the ranks in this media dominated world. Literally think about it, what would happen if all Australian designers shut shop tomorrow? What would the journalists do? What would they write?”
This article was written and submitted by Emily St. John for Round 1 of Modeconnect’s International Fashion Writing Competition. Emily was invited to take part in Round 2. Read all the published submissions.