Guy Of Style: Mitchell Oakley Smith

How did you first get into the fashion industry?
I first worked as a news journalist before moving over into fashion, which was what I always wanted. I studied writing at university with the aim of becoming a fashion journalist.

Why did you decide to compile this book?
I found that there was no tangible reference of this very moment or era of Australian and New Zealand fashion and, when I looked further, there hadn’t been one in Australia for nearly 3 decades.

What do you think are the difference between Australian and New Zealand Fashion?
I think that New Zealand has a much more identifiable aesthetic, which is perhaps a result of the isolation of the country. Australia on the other hand has a much broader aesthetic – of different styles as influenced by different cities, backgrounds, etc.

There’s often talk about where our ‘down under’ fashion fits into the world – given that our seasons are out of whack and our climate and lifestyle is so different to that of Europe and the US. What’s your take?
I think it should be recognised and appreciated on its own level, and not compared to international markets. This comparison is a result of many years (up until the new millennium) of large corporate fashion companies copying the styles of Europe or US, but there’s so many younger, niche designers today and so much more on offer.

You are also the associate editor of GQ magazine, if and how do you think that helped you in writing this book?
I also write for Belle, Box, The Australian and Vogue Australia. I think having established relationships with designers and PRs helped in getting interviews – as I interviewed each of the 70 designers featured. This access wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have a strong background in the industry.

Who is your fashion icon?
I can’t say that I have one, actually. I’m inspired by so many different people and places that it’s impossible to be influenced by just one.

Who are your favourite designers, Kiwi and Australian?
Young, niche designers such as Arnsdorf, Yeojin Bae and LIFEwithBIRD show such great promise and a real understanding of what luxury is today. Others, like Dion Lee and Romance Was Born, continue to inspire and excite. The stalwarts like Akira, Easton Pearson and Collette Dinnigan have remained true to their identity, which has worked in their favour, too. In New Zealand, I think the likes of Nom*D and Zambesi have a fantastic history that they continue to reference to great effect, and the younger guard like Jimmy D are promoting the country in innovative ways.

What has been your career highlight?
Seeing the great reaction to this book by designers, photographers, retailers, students, academics, booksellers and customers.

What are your plans/goals for the future?
I’m already hard at work on another fashion book, more on that to come… In the meantime, I’m getting back on top of my day job working in magazines.

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