Vogue Fashion Night Out

(1.40pm 12 September, Parliament House, Sydney)

The Sydney electorate, as the centre of Sydney's fashion industry, has a number of renowned fashion precincts. The central business district includes our two major department stores and boutiques in the new Westfield Sydney Shopping Centre, Pitt Street Mall, Queen Victoria Building and Strand Arcade. High-fashion stores such as Chanel and Hermes are found in The Rocks and Castlereagh Street. In Paddington small and often independent boutiques span Oxford Street and side streets such as Glenmore Road and William Street, and Crown Street, Surry Hills, has become the place to go for vintage fashion.

Retail and fashion are important facets of Sydney's tremendous and diverse creative sector, and a thriving retail industry is also a vital part of our economy. At last count the retail sector employed over 14 per cent of our workforce, accounted for 37 per cent of all businesses and occupied 13 per cent of all floor space across the City of Sydney local government area. It is the largest retail sector in Australia, and it continues to broaden and deepen the scope of its offerings. It reaffirms our place as Australia's face to the world as one of the most innovative, creative and lively cities in the Asia-Pacific. Areas with a strong fashion presence are more lively and engaging places to work and visit.

Last year I initiated a retail advisory panel in the City of Sydney to link the industry with the city and the New South Wales Government in order to provide informed advice and a forum for raising issues of concern to the industry. The City of Sydney has extended this support through sponsorship of Vogue Fashion Night Out, making Sydney one of 17 world cities to hold the event this year. Vogue Fashion Night Out provides an after-hours shopping experience where shoppers can mingle with celebrities, designers and stars as they watch performances, listen to music and have a civilised drink.

Last year I had the pleasure of opening the first Sydney Vogue Fashion Night Out on the steps of the MLC Centre, and last Thursday I was joined by Jessica Gomes, Vogue Fashion Night Out Ambassador, Kirstie Clements, Editor in Chief of Vogue Australia, and Bob Jordan, Westfield Managing Director Australia and New Zealand, to launch the second Vogue Fashion Night Out. This year's event was expanded by two extra hours and about one-third more retailers taking part. More than 600 shops were involved—some shops had queues of people waiting to get inside that could have rivalled the hottest Sydney night clubs. Shops hosted live performances, fashion parades, fashion tutorials on how to tie a scarf, special window displays and other activities. Some stores and some labels offered one-off limited edition pieces made especially for the event that collectors could snap up. Pitt Street Mall, which was recently beautifully upgraded, was alive with activity—I have never seen it buzz quite as much.

Retailers are facing tough economic times. It is great to see so many of them working together to look at new ways to stimulate shopping in the city in order to gain new customers. Some fashion stores can be quite intimidating to visit, particularly high-end boutiques. Vogue Fashion Night Out presents an opportunity to break down barriers between shoppers and retailers and to introduce new patrons to boutiques. People were queued outside of Bally, Armani, Paspaley, Tiffany's, Louis Viutton, and Farage. The newly opened Westfield plaza was buzzing, and the floral arrangements in David Jones were absolutely beautiful—a destination in themselves. With online shopping a looming threat to the traditional store, Vogue Fashion Night Out gives customers a reason to log off their computers and visit the shops in the city centre, which is great for the economy. I am advised that the evening was a success for retailers. Another great achievement was the fantastic mix of the social and retail experience for those who had a fabulous night out in the heart of a major Australian retail centre.

Vogue Fashion Night Out is in line with what we at the City of Sydney are working to achieve for our late night economy: a range of different options for people to enjoy at night—from shopping to movies or going to an art gallery or bookstore. In light of the violent ugliness seen over the past weekend in some areas of the city, it is important to provide variety that does involve getting drunk and bashing people. I congratulate the organisers, particularly Vogue, on creating an outstanding event and the spirit among our retailers who hosted live performances, fashion parades, special window displays and other activities to promote our global city was terrific.