Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week 2012: Collecting Pretty Boys

THE Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was a whirlwind of colour and prints as hundreds of designers strutted their stuff on the runway. Not wanting to miss out on the fashion frivolity, we sent our fashion reporter Jess Pang to Sydney to cover the event. This week she highlights one label that blew her way – Collecting Pretty Boys, who gave her a sneak peak of their collection before it hit the runway.

Photo: Christine Ai

Gabrielle Stephens might sound like a familiar name to you if you followed the third season of Project Runway Australia. She did not win the fashion-focused reality TV show but that did not stop her from launching her own clothing label, Collecting Pretty Boys.

Described as feminine and flowy with an immenent raw edge, this fledgling line is one to watch. Their latest collection, Lilith & Valkyrie, is a combination of urban rock and mythological tales with a deluge of awe-inspiring digital prints, including a collage of ocean waves, angel wings and hair strands. Now that’s design brilliance!

“On some mornings you wake up, you just want to feel pretty and throw on something different,” Gabrielle says, as she picks out a pair of Snow White leggings with whimsical prints in pastel shades.

With the clean and refreshing ‘Snow White’ print juxtaposing with the dusky, mysterious ‘Dark Knight’ and ‘Leopard Pimp’, the whole collection shows an equipoise of all opposing elements. Gabrielle wanted even the delicate pieces to have a slight harsh edge so she added a hint of leather detailing.

This year was Collecting Pretty Boy’s MBFWA runway debut. To celebrate, Gabrielle  showed us some pieces from the label’s debut collection, Out of the Forest and into the Light.

Again, this collection plays with tough and edgy finishes on delicate fabrics like Italian lycra and cotton cashmere. The use of leather, studs and fur add grunge and richness to the collection, but they are balanced out with feminine shapes and styles.


But there is more to Collecting Pretty Boys than their fashion labels. Off the runway, Gabrielle mentors design students and young designers to help them grow their skills and harness their self-belief.

“Fashion isn’t the easiest industry to be in and most of the people who are already in it aren’t willing to embrace others and guide them,” she says.

“We all need someone in our lives to turn to when we can’t find the answers to questions or when we feel lost about which direction to take.  To know that someone is willing to be there for a bit of support, guidance and to push us into making our own decisions can make life a little easier.”

As part of her mentoring role, Gabrielle helps students work on their self-assessment, strengths and weaknesses so they can achieve their goals. Some of Gabrielle’s mentees have joined her at Collecting Pretty Boys, while others have embarked on their own fashion label journeys.

As fulfilling as a career in fashion can be, Gabrielle reminds students that it’s not all beautiful fabrics and champagne. With only a small team behind Collecting Pretty Boys, they suffered a lot of all-nighters and painstaking hand stitching marathons in the lead up to Fashion Week.

“I remember thinking, ‘If we don’t sleep at all tonight, will the hours be taken off at the end of our lives?’,” Gabrielle says. But it was all worth it.

The Collective Pretty Boys runway was definitely one of the standouts at MBFWA.  Rather than follow the trends, all the label’s colours and patterns were based on organic ideas thought up by Gabrielle and her team. They also designed most of the patterns themselves. Gabrielle says the label does not orient to a particular trend as all colours and patterns based on organic ideas.

And with everything from swimsuits to floaty flowy dresses to leather pants and fur jackets, the collections in Sydney were both beautiful and versatile enough to appeal to all types of buyers from all over the world, which, of course, is Gabrielle’s career dream – to take the label to the international fashion arena.

In the meantime, she has one piece of sage advice for all aspiring designers:

“The journey to reach your goal can be tough. You have to question your abilities and delve deep into yourself to discover your passion,” she says.


You can check out the runway photos and behind-the-scene snapshots here.

All photos courtesy of Christine Ai of

In the coming weeks, we’ll be highlighting more designers and labels that blew us away the the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Sydney. Get your pens ready because these names will be the ones to watch this coming spring/summer season!

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