We have never been in a moment like this, but one way it is being described is “Darwinian”, which we usually take to mean only the strong will survive. But it’s worth revisiting what the famous naturalist himself posited in his On the Origin of Species (1859), which was that survival depended not on brute strength but on adaptability. Here we might remember that this revolutionary theory began to take shape not in the Galapagos but on a trip, 20 years earlier, to Australia.
In 1836, while on his round-the-world voyage on the HMS Beagle, Darwin came ashore and spent 11 days in the Blue Mountains. There, he became intrigued by an animal so rule-breaking, so impossible, so mad he could hardly believe his eyes. When the samples he sent back to England arrived, they thought it was a joke.
When I accepted an invitation to travel from England to the first Australian Fashion Week in 1996, those around me thought that sounded like a bit of a joke, too. Not quite on the level of an egg-laying aquatic furry animal – but definitely not Paris.
It’s the “not Paris” of Australian fashion that might have the most value ahead; the unbelievable ability to adapt to a strange and threatening environment, the sheer stubbornness, the grab anything and use it self-belief. We have so little we can hold on to right now. But Australia was, is, always will be unique. What lies ahead could be our fashion industry’s “platypus moment”.