The story of Collette Dinnigan reflects the very best of our dynamic fashion industry - creative talent, design excellence, high quality craftsmanship, coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit and daring to dream.

In 1990 the young fashion designer Collette Dinnigan put together a collection of handmade lingerie. She enlisted students to model and she put on a small show in Sydney.

A Sydney Morning Herald journalist reported the next day that if you wanted to obtain a catalogue of these exquisite pieces, you just had to send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the designer - a very modest but enterprising beginning. Well the envelopes kept coming and Collette knew she had a following. Australian retail stores did not.

And so in 1992 Collette Dinnigan opened her first boutique. She had expanded her range and was living above the shop in Paddington. By day she would sell her exquisite pieces, by night she would design, cut and sew them and over time the label, which was in each garment with the delicate calligraphy – “Collette Dinnigan” – became highly sought after.

Today she is one of the most internationally renowned and recognised Australian fashion designers, her brand synonymous with glamour and romance. It is the embodiment of perfection and quality.

In 1995, just five years after her first show, Collette Dinnigan was the first Australian fashion designer to be invited to show her work at the prestigious Prét a Porter collections in Paris Fashion Week and she opened her second boutique in Melbourne that year.

In 2000, Collette Dinnigan became the first Australian fashion designer to be invited to show her work at the Fashion-in-Motion Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and she opened her third boutique in Chelsea.

In 2005, Collette Dinnigan became one of a few Australian fashion designers who were featured on an Australian postage stamp. What an irony - she had come such a long way from the stamped, self-addressed envelopes!

Then tonight, in 2015, Collette Dinnigan is the first Australian fashion designer to have her collection as part of a retrospective exhibition at the Centre for Fashion here at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

Collette Dinnigan has rightly been recognised and received many accolades and awards over her 25 year career. Her clothes have been worn by Australian celebrities all over the world - Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Miranda Kerr, Elle Macpherson. Her international clientele includes Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, the Duchess of Cambridge and so many more.

I first fell in love with Collette Dinnigan’s glorious clothes many years ago and I have my own classic collection of sequined cardis and gorgeous frocks. Indeed, I was attending a dinner in New York for G’Day USA in January of last year and I bought this and the label says only seven were made worldwide. Well imagine my delight when I found one of the seven upstairs in the exhibition! We’ve only got five to locate Collette!

The Australian fashion industry is the exemplar of our creative economy.

220,000 jobs in Australia, $12 billion contributed to our economy each and every year. I have embraced ‘fashion diplomacy’ as coming under the umbrella of ‘economic diplomacy’, a pillar of our foreign policy. In this way we will promote our stylists, our designers, our manufacturers, our photographers, our magazines, indeed our raw materials - our cotton and leather and wool, precious stones and pearls and gems and all things gloriously Australian to promote trade and investment and to provide jobs and grow our economy.

To this end, last Monday, Edwina McCann, the editor-in-chief of Vogue and the founder and chair of the Australian Fashion Chamber, and I, signed a memorandum of understanding to symbolise a partnership between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Fashion Chamber so that we can promote Australian fashion designers overseas, we can nurture emerging talent and we can assist Australian fashion businesses as they seek to operate on the world stage.

Indeed I’ve already charged our overseas embassies and high commissions and posts to host events for our fashion designers during the major fashion shows and already we’ve held fashion events in our posts in New York, London, Paris, Islamabad, New Delhi and Jakarta.

And there are so many opportunities for us to promote the Australian fashion industry overseas. In July I was in Brazil and I met with the co-creator and producer of the Sao Paulo Fashion Week, Garcia Cabral, and she informed me that Sao Paulo’s Fashion Week is the fifth largest in the world. And the more we spoke about the Brazilian culture, their love of the outdoors and resort wear and the size of the consumer market in Brazil, I realised that there were great synergies and great opportunities. So I introduced Garcia Cabral to Edwina McCann and next year Australian fashion designers will be featured in the Sao Paulo Fashion Week in 2016, the year of the Olympics in Brazil.

The Australian fashion industry represents the very best we have to offer. It shows our creativity, our sophistication, our diversity - as an economy, as a nation.

So ladies and gentlemen, please join with me this evening in congratulating Collette Dinnigan, a true icon of Australian fashion, as we celebrate her 25 year career, her achievements, her contribution to Australia, as I declare open the Collette Dinnigan retrospective exhibition at Powerhouse Museum, “Unlaced”.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
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