So prestigious is this competition in the eyes of fashions in the field (FITF) contestants that it attracts entrants from all over Australia and New Zealand, all of whom are vying for not only the incredible prize package on offer (a brand-new Lexus, anyone?) but the bragging rights associated with earning one of the event’s coveted sashes.
Despite having a much smaller ‘devout’ following of FITF entrants compared to that of Australia, New Zealand has always earnt its place in this competition with our own competitions helping pave the way for many a placegetter in the ‘big final’.
Take for example Lorraine Cookson who won New Zealand’s own FITF final – Prix de Fashion – in March 2007 at Ellerslie, before going on to win the overall MYER FOTF competition at Flemington later that year in the same outfit she had worn months prior.
In an impressive double, sisters Olivia and Charlotte Moor placed first and third respectively in MYER FOTF on Melbourne Cup Day in 2016, both wearing outfits designed by their ever-talented mum, Ali. Prior to that success, both had earnt New Zealand’s own national title with Olivia taking out the Prix de Fashion prize in 2014 and Charlotte emulating that win in 2015.
It was then in 2019, after having placed second in MYER FOTF on Derby Day in 2018, that one of our club ambassadors – Carena West – not only placed in third in MYER FOTF on Derby Day, then won the MYER FOTF competition on Melbourne Cup Day (becoming the competition’s Victorian state representative for the upcoming final), but went on to take out the overall MYER FOTF competition on Oaks Day, effectively becoming Australia’s ‘best dressed racegoer’.
Little-known to many a runway watcher was that underneath the showstopping traditional Uzbek Suzani dress she had purchased on Etsy and remodelled, topped with a custom-made rear-facing hat by kiwi milliner Claire Hahn, she was about five months pregnant.
High hopes were then placed on The Ned Prix de Fashion 2020 winner, Katie O’Neill, who as part of her prize had won a trip to compete at in the competition at Flemington in November that year. Alas! It was not meant to be with the COVID-19 pandemic thwarting any but the most essential of plans for people around the world.
In the two seasons following, both MYER Fashions on the Field and The Ned Prix de Fashion were held online with clubs, sponsors and competitors rallying hard to ensure the competitions were not forgotten amidst the unrest of the pandemic.
While they were a different take on the usual format of a FITF event, these online competitions have proven to hold their place with the kiwi results from this month’s MYER FOTF runway competition at Flemington showing that those competitors who prove themselves in the online space most definitely have the talent to compete among the best on the (actual) stage.
One could describe Laura Campbell as one of our most versatile FITF entrants – not only winning a runway edition of The Ned Prix de Fashion in 2018 but going on to become the first person to win the national sash twice after taking out the competition again in 2021 where it was held online for the first time.
Like Katie, Laura’s prize included a trip to Melbourne to compete at Flemington – a prize that, thanks to the support of the Victoria Racing Club, could also be put on hold until ‘in person’ racedays and travel could resume.
In another ‘sister act’, Eleanor Campbell won New Zealand’s coveted title – nine years after her sister Claudia took the win. She too won a package with the Victoria Racing Club as per of her prize.
It was thus with baited breath as our country’s FITF followers watched the scenes of the runway unfold at Flemington last week with not one, but two of our national titleholders competing with the best (due to unforeseen circumstances, Katie O’Neill was unable to travel to Melbourne to compete) and boy did they do us proud!
Fast-forward to Melbourne Cup Day and Eleanor blew us away, stopping all in their tracks as she donned her winning outfit from The Ned Prix de Fashion and took to the runway. In maintaining the family connection, it was a great thrill to see not only Eleanor but her supportive and equally stylish mother Anna, both be named among the day’s finalists.
To then hear Eleanor’s name be called out as one of the day’s Top 3 was such a thrill, as was seeing both Laura and Eleanor included in a Vogue story about the day’s best style.
With a day’s break in between, Oaks Day was upon us.
A day of femininity and glamour, Laura Campbell once again wowed us on the runway in a gorgeous vintage-inspired outfit that most definitely stood out from the pack due to its eye-catching orange colour tone and interesting shape that was a break-away from what we’d otherwise been seeing. Laura made it into not only the final, but the Top 3 of the Oaks Day competition – meaning she would be joining Eleanor in the overall competition final!
To have had our two most recent winners of The Ned Prix de Fashion make it to this final was no mean feat, particularly when our competition – which seeks to find our country’s best dressed racegoer – comes from a comparatively small entry pool and has been based off an online competition for the past two seasons. While we have always had the faith that an online competition will still find the ‘best of the best’, the past week’s results have really proven that point. The status of our kiwi competition was also buoyed by the fact that it also had 2010 winner Kelli Odell amongst the finalists too.
And so it was that while Laura nor Eleanor were announced among the overall Top 3, they did us all so, so proud. Particularly so when you see that those who did secure make it to being announced as Australia’s Top 3 best dressed racegoers came from the same qualifying competitions our kiwi contenders placed in, showing just how tough the level of competition was on the days they placed.
So what’s next? For New Zealand, there’s a season of qualifying competitions ahead for The Ned Prix de Fashion – a competition we hope that, based off the results of its past winners, will provide added inspiration and drive to this year’s finalists who should truly see themselves as being able to sashay their style among the best.
Good luck to those entering – we mean it when we say we can’t wait to see what you all come up with!