Ken Done Wins Australian Fashion Laureate Lifetime Achievement Award

The veteran artist's vibrant, naive artworks and merchandise helped define the cultural zeitgeist in Australia in the '80s.

Ken Done with a model in a look from the Romance Was Born x Ken Done resort 2023 collection during Afterpay Australian Fashion Week’s 2022 showcase, Ken Done Gallery, The Rocks, Sydney, May 9, 2022. Brendon Thorne


Australian artist Ken Done has won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2022 Australian Fashion Laureates.

Considered the industry’s pinnacle trophy, the award was among seven Australian Fashion Laureates that were presented at a lunch at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art on Tuesday.

One of the country’s most prominent artists, whose work has been featured in more than 100 solo exhibitions in Australia and around the world, Done, now 82, abandoned a successful career as a creative director at advertising agencies in New York, London and Sydney to focus on painting full-time in 1980. His vibrant, naive depictions of Australiana and notably, Sydney landmarks helped define the ’80s cultural zeitgeist in Australia and proved a commercial goldmine, tapping into the decade’s Japanese tourism boom.

From his gallery in Sydney, Done and his wife Judy started selling T-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with his prints, which proved popular. They expanded into swimwear, resortwear, bed linens and other homewares. By the end of the decade they were operating 15 shops around the country.

Ken Done merchandise was not only a star player in Olivia Newton-John’s ’80s retail chain Koala Blue, which operated in the U.S., Asia and Europe, he designed the brand’s logo. His many licensing arrangements, during his heyday, included deals with Mervyn’s department stores and Bart Jacobs in California.

Designer of the Year at this year’s awards was won by sibling design duo Camilla Freeman-Topper and Marc Freeman, of the Camilla and Marc label.

Emerging Designer of the Year was won by Lesleigh Jermanus, of the Alémais label — Jermanus’ second major award of the year, after taking home the 2022 National Designer Award in July.

Indigenous Designer of the Year was awarded to Laura Thompson, cofounder of the Aboriginal social enterprise and fashion label Clothing The Gaps.

Sarah Munro and Robert Sebastian Grynkofki of the Sarah and Sebastian jewelry brand received the Sustainable Innovation of the Year Award. Long focussed on sustainability, the duo recently pledged to donate 1 million Australian dollars, or $667,000 at current exchange, to ocean conservation efforts over the next decade.

The Carla Zampatti Award for Excellence in Leadership was won by Leila Naja Hibri, chief executive officer of the Australian Fashion Council.

The People’s Choice Award, which is decided by a public vote conducted by Australian Fashion Week naming rights sponsor Afterpay, was won by Rebecca Vallance.



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