When Sydney-based fashion designer Lesleigh Jermanus launched her ethereal, feminine brand Alemais in 2020, it was a big risk. The country was managing the early days of the pandemic and Jermanus was trusting her gut that the lockdown trend for loungewear would eventually pass and the embroidered dresses, linen print shirts and fanciful playsuits in her debut collection would find their way to a loyal customer base.
“It felt right, so I knew that intuitively it was the right thing to do,” says Jermanus.
Almost two years later, Alemais’s bold shapes, eclectic prints and artisan fabrics have been recognised in one of Australia’s most established and prestigious fashion awards – the National Designer Award presented by David Jones.
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Jermanus was presented with the award – which acknowledges designers in their formative years of business – at Melbourne Fashion Festival on July 27. Accepting the record-high prize of $120,000, the designer tells Broadsheet she is “absolutely over the moon”.
“I’m so proud and I feel so honoured to have received this award, especially with my fellow nominees. I was in very good company.”
The five other finalists were E Nolan, Clea, Beare Park, Blanca and Joslin. The latter was awarded the Honourable Mention for Sustainability, receiving a $10,000 prize and mentorship with David Jones. Alemais was also presented with the People’s Choice Award, voted for by the public.
“The David Jones community, our community, they’ve been so gracious and loving and supportive of the brand since we started," says Jermanus. “I feel like our customers are our friends – they write to us all the time, they’re invested in the brand. My heart skipped a beat when I heard our name.”
Based in Marrickville in Sydney’s inner west, Alemais has grown from humble kitchen-table beginnings to operating out of a dedicated studio and with stockists in 26 countries. The brand also recently employed its 13th staff member. “[It] gives me a lot of joy to be able to employ local talent, the industry is not huge,” she says.
Jermanus says she’ll be investing the prize money into research and development, particularly within the brand’s sustainability focus. “We want to continue to educate ourselves on how we can tread as lightly as we can, and we’ve engaged a sustainability strategist to help us on that journey,” she explains.
Jermanus brings 20 years of fashion experience to Alemais, having worked with Aussie heavyweights Zimmermann, Nicholas and Marcs. She also gained a famous fan of her colourful designs in entrepreneur Zoë Foster Blake. “It’s incredible … She genuinely loves (and buys) the brand, which is really inspiring for us.”
Read Broadsheet’s interview with Jermanus from 2021.