They battle for brands and sales and now the department stores are also fighting for bragging rights over who can throw the best season launch.
David Jones will up the ante next month by shelving the traditional canape-to-catwalk format and instead throw Australia’s biggest dinner party, inspired in part by a history-making Christian Dior parade the store hosted in 1948.
The top floor of the Sydney store, where the August 9 launch will take place, was the site of the first full Dior parade held outside of Paris.
The 1948 coup was the work of then David Jones buyer Mary Alice Shiell, who travelled to Dior’s Paris headquarters to seal the deal.
More than 300 VIP guests will take their seats around a purpose-built raised catwalk to dine on a menu designed by Neil Perry, who is overseeing a $100-million overhaul of the company’s food business.
The sit-down dinner on August 9 is a first for David Jones and together with a fashion show featuring about 50 models and 250 looks, is the event organiser’s equivalent of scaling Mount Everest.
But David Collins, the company’s managing director of clothing and merchandise, is ready for the challenge.
“A dinner for 330 people held at a grand table, within the magnificent On Seven space, is certainly ambitious but will be nothing short of spectacular,” he said.
Myer, which held intimate dinners for about 100 guests for its past two winter launches, is staging its summer launch on August 17 over two sessions at a residence in Coogee, on Sydney’s eastern beaches.
Both stores will also hold customer parades in Sydney and Melbourne following the VIP launches to kickstart new-season sales.
The David Jones event will be the last parade at On Seven before a $200-million refurbishment of the flagship store.
The historical venue also hosted a state banquet for Queen Elizabeth II in 1954, and holds a special significance for store ambassador Jesinta Franklin, who made her David Jones catwalk debut there in 2015.
“The bridal suite is on that level and when I first got engaged [to AFL footballer Lance “Buddy” Franklin in 2014], I went for a try on and play, so I have that memory,” she said.
“There have been a lot of great fashion moments there but for me also personal and career moments.”
Franklin said she is excited – and slightly daunted – about the raised catwalk, which will showcase several new brands for the store among the show line-up, which includes swimwear and athleisure.
“I’m a little bit nervous about how close the audience will be. It’s a different experience, it’s how the models used to do it back in the day. It’s fun to change it up,” Franklin said.
She said seeing the 1948 Dior photos enhanced her love of the fashion history.
“It makes you realise what you’re a part of. It’s easy to become absorbed in your experience of fashion. And when I see images like that it makes you think, wow, fashion has … played a really important role for women. Fashion can be political, it can stand for something, it can have meaning to it. It’s not just a superfluous thing.”
David Jones is one of the key sponsors of an exhibition celebrating 70 years of the design house that opens at the National Gallery of Victoria on August 27.