I am delighted to say that I was there, at the first ever Bali Fashion Festival.

TheBali Fashion Festival has changed the game for the small island nation, opening the region’s fashion credentials up to a new audience and drawing connections from far and wide.

Far from nearby Kuta beach and Australians behaving badly, far from the tranquility of the rice fields and Balinese hills, a new experience unfolded in the recently developed Stones Hotel Legian, with designers from Australia, Jakarta, Singapore, Bali, Hong Kong and Trinidad and Tobago coming together for the week-long event created by MGroup director Nicholas Meimaris to connect Bali with the region’s fashion-loving tourists and media.

“We thought this would be something we could introduce to Bali; it’s an entertainment platform,” said Meimaris during the event.

“Bali is also a bit of a manufacturing mecca for Australian brands. Price and costing have a lot to do with that but Bali is a beautiful place and the people are beautiful, designers want to be here.”

Story by Tang designer Christine Tang divides her time between Sydney, Perth and Bali, where she has owned her own factory for five years.

“A bunch of friends that were producing here talked me in to coming up a few years ago and I started producing here then,” says Tang.

Tang has witnessed the changing face of Bali, once a far more relaxed destination, now home to international retail brands including Zara due to open before the end of this year.

“It used to be easy-going but it’s quite hectic now. It’s becoming a fashion hub and it’s got so much more traffic.”

Project Runway Australia finalist Leah Da Gloria opened the week-long Fashion Festival Bali program that also included renowned Australian youth fashion labels Shakuhachi and Bare, showing her intricate bridal and eveningwear designs in her first ever solo show.

“For me (the festival) was a matter of getting exposure to the Asian market,” says Da Gloria. “I made some good contacts and media connections with people in Singapore and around Asia and had a lot of social media exposure which is also good for the brand in general.”

A retail space adjacent to the runway allowed designers to sell direct to the public immediately after their shows, a concept Meimaris said reflected directly on the success of each parade throughout the week.

State of Georgia designer Georgia Hall, who calls Bali home, having relocated from Australia 10 years ago, says “Bali has changed so much and really gotten up to speed with fashion.

“The whole place has grown a lot, with development everywhere. Retail is great in Bali because people come for holiday, and holidays mean shopping and taking it easy, so it’s worked out really well for me.”

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