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Whether travelling the world or launching an out-of-this-world collection, eccentric fashion
designer Anthony Capon is quashing social prejudices and living out his destiny,
marching to his own beat. BY MILED ACHI
Draped in his signature swarthy garb,
Anthony Capon makes his way across
a bustling Canberra intersection on a
balmy Saturday night.
Anthony, no stranger to the odd
stare, gets plenty of them as he strides
confidently into the restaurant for this interview.
Completely unfazed, he greets me with a hug and sits
down. He embodies the cosmopolitan chic of his new
home city Melbourne, donning a cape-like leather
vest, black denim cut-off shorts, a pair of heeled ankle
boots and to top it all off, a printed Mariah Carey and
Will Smith retro t-shirt.
"My friend bought it for me 'cause he knew I'd love
it," he says.
"I've had six people come up to me today and
say, 'Oh my God is that you with Mariah?' I was like
'um... I'm not black; also I'm not Will Smith'. This is
'90s Mariah anyway, I would have been five years old
in this picture."
Anthony has indeed come a long way since growing
up in Canberra and his days as a retail assistant
behind the counter of gasp... Sportsgirl, would you
believe. He moved away eight years ago.
"I decided that as soon as I graduated if I didn't
move I would have just stayed here," he says.
A work experience stint at the now defunct
fashion label Vicious Threads in Melbourne, which
he garnered through one of his lecturers at the
Canberra Institute of Technology, turned into full-
time employment. He moved quickly from women's
wear designer to production manager and visual
merchandiser for the stores.
"I was on minimum wage; I don't know how I
lived," he says.
"The only reason I left was because I decided to ask
for a pay rise for all the extra work I had taken on.
They said no... so I left."
The fashion industry has always been recognised
as a beguiling beast -- both a place of creative
expression as well as a humbling fortress of sacrifice
Anthony recalls a situation one of his close friends
endured. She had been working at Costume National
in Europe for more than two years. She couldn't
afford to live and returned to Australia where she
struggled to find work and was told that she didn't
have enough experience.
"She doesn't work in fashion anymore," he
"She got tired. It's a waste of talent. She is
So who was getting all the jobs? Anthony gushed
about his moment of serendipity soon after leaving
Vicious Threads. While shopping in Collingwood he
stumbled upon the concept store Et Al. The label's
owners were in the store and it was love at first sight.
"They looked at me and said, 'You look
amazing. We love you, we love what you're
wearing'," he recalls.
"I was wearing an outfit I had made myself."
Anthony was hired.
"When people believe in you, it's just one of those
things, you can't force it."
Anthony lives by the mantra of a good friend
Charlie -- a fashion buyer of note.
"Wherever you go, whatever you do, you can never
leave the house looking like shit," he recites.
"And it's true. I got the job at Et Al purely because
of how I look."
The Et Al (translated from Latin meaning 'and
others') ethos fitted Anthony's life trajectory and
personal aesthetic perfectly.
The label boasted abstract silhouettes, rich textures
and monochromatic tones. The label's core audience
is the mature woman -- someone who no longer has
children in school, likes to travel, has paid off their
mortgage and whose body has changed from a 10
"We're putting a product out there that has a point
of difference and that's why we are surviving and will
survive," he says.
He believes that knowing your audience and
creating something unique for them will give you the
longevity you need in a tough local market.
Anthony now has a large stake in the decision
making process with the company.
"When they hired me they told me I was the future
of that company," he says
"I believe in it so much because no one is doing
what we do."
In his role Anthony has been given the opportunity
to travel the world to seek inspiration. His time in
New York, Tokyo and Shanghai proved the most
"Hong Kong is a shopping mecca for me," he coos.
"Most items in the world have the 'Made in China'
label. It's the birth place of a lot of products and
fashion. They are ahead of the trends... they literally
After his first showing at Australian Fashion Week
in 2010, where he showed male models donning
skirts, the media touted his style as avant-garde and
"The word androgyny makes me want to spew,"
"To be honest I don't relate to them [cross dressers]
because I don't consider myself one. I don't believe
that my interpretation of fashion needs to have a
gender. Why can't guys wear skirts? Girls have so
"I hate being pigeonholed into something. I don't
want to challenge to be a brat, I believe in equality."
Despite being adopted from a Filipino orphanage
by his Australian parents as a baby, Anthony has
always felt like he was accepted for who he is. His
lifestyle and strong sense of individuality helped him
overcome early adversity.
"I still remember the time I was spat on in
Canberra," he recalls.
"I was about 16 years old. I went home to my
father and was very teary. It was half racism and half
to do with what I was wearing."
After winning the second season of reality design
show Project Runway in 2009, Anthony found
consolation in his talents.
"I went from one day being spat at to the next
being told I was an amazing designer."
The show provided him a catalyst to showcase
his creativity and made his personal style more
accessible to the masses.
In spite of some teething issues which remain
"off the record" he was able to launch his own label
a.Concept which he now stocks in Et Al. It has,
however, taken a backseat for the time being, due
in part to the lack of a market for his clothing in
"I can see my stuff in Hong Kong. Every guy there
is always well put together," he says.
"The ladies think they can buy a Chanel handbag
and that will carry their outfit but the men there are
After securing an agent in Japan in late 2012, Et Al
has its sights set on launching a menswear collection
in Paris later this year.
"We're not doing a parade but we have a showroom
in Paris," he says.
"There are no expectations; we've never done it
before so we're seeing how it goes. Ideally we would
love to target the Asian market but the Asians won't
believe its credibility until the Europeans take it on."
In the meantime, Anthony has his hands full
creating a collection of garments in collaboration
with one of Australia's most influential salons,
Mieka Hairdressing. Founder Tracey Hughes will
be touring hair shows worldwide and Anthony's
clothing will provide inspiration for the hairstyles
to be seen by more than 10,000 people in the US
With talent and success that belie his years, what
advice would Anthony give?
"It's so hard telling young designers to be focused
and positive... the harsh reality is very few labels
are taking on new designers. When I see a young
designer I say -- all I want you to be is passionate."
The formal part of the interview over, Anthony
suggests a drink at the bar across the road. As we
attempt to step through the door a burly security
guard stretches out his arm blocking the doorway.
Anthony and I routinely rummage through our
wallets looking for our IDs (flattered at the ripe old
age of 31 that I still get asked).
The guard shakes his head...no!
He looks Anthony up and down, pauses... "No
I sigh in disbelief, Anthony, completely unfazed, looks
at me and shrugs. "Meh," he says and turns to leave.
I protest as we walk away.
"Doesn't he know? These aren't any shorts --
"I went from one
day being spat at to the
next being told I was an
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