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Celebrating the Melbourne Cup | Laura Campbell on fashions in the field, Aussie style

Last season there was no one better dressed at the races than Waikato's Laura Campbell. In winning The Ned Prix de Fashion 2021 and its associated national racewear title, she became the first person to win the coveted title twice.

Two-time winner of The Ned Prix de Fashion, Laura Campbell

As part of her prize, Laura was meant to have been flying the kiwi flag on the MYER Fashions on the Field runway at the Melbourne Cup Carnival courtesy of Victoria Racing Club.


Sadly, COVID-19 got in the way and instead, Laura will be joining the rest of us watching the fashion, racing and colour of 2021's edition from the 'sidelines' here in New Zealand.

We had a chat to this best dressed lady about her experiences, trend predictions and more ahead of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

You last competed on the runway in Melbourne after winning The Ned Prix de Fashion in 2018, how did it go for you?

Laura, pictured here on the runway at Ellerslie in 2018 when she won Prix de Fashion

It was very early in my fashion in the field journey and I was out of my depth a bit (!), so I didn’t return home with a sash. However, I did come home with plenty of learnings which I credit with helping my success in this season just been.

You were meant to be competing at Flemington this year but that's no longer happening thanks to COVID-19 – how far through the outfit planning process were you?

I had four outfits in the works (all coloured!) that I was going to have to whittle down to two and then my Derby Day look was just at the sketches and ideas stage.

Aside from my Prix de Fashion-winning outfit (which I still love and was thinking of a few tweaks I could do to keep it fresh if I chose to re-wear it), my outfits all had bold silhouettes and shapes with a lot of detail that took hours to get right.

Laura Campbell Ellerslie
"Aside from my Prix de Fashion-winning outfit (which I still love and was thinking of a few tweaks I could do to keep it fresh if I chose to re-wear it), my outfits all had bold silhouettes and shapes with a lot of detail that took hours to get right."

They are all still in the closet and one or two might still make the trip next year which has been able to be postponed thanks to the kindness of Victoria Racing Club.


[Ed's note: This year, Victoria Racing Club's iconic fashions on the field competition will again take place 'online' with the aptly-named title of Fashions On Your Front Lawn]


You've had some stage time already in Melbourne, what's that experience like and how does it differ from competing here in New Zealand?


There's less time to be noticed in the heats in Melbourne with each girl in a heat (of 10) just taking a step or two forward for a few seconds before rejoining the line.


It’s great that in New Zealand all contestants get more of a runway moment where they can really put their best foot forward and show off all the different facets to their look.

Backstage it was pretty similar, with both environments being a really lovely, supportive place with girls touching up one another's lipsticks and helping make sure everything is sitting perfectly.


In both countries, back stage is just girls helping one other shine which is awesome.

Is there anything you felt you needed to do differently while in Melbourne in order to catch the judges' eyes compared to New Zealand?

I think a strong outfit will catch the judges' eyes wherever you compete, but given that in the Melbourne heats you don’t get a full catwalk, it’s important to make the most of every moment on stage, even when just standing at the back of it.


Have you got any Australian racewear style crushes and if so, have you met them?


Millicent Zaria, I met her while I was over there and she is so lovely in person as well. I LOVE how she uses prints and colours.

I also really adore Tatiana Hoffmann (never met her but stalk on insta!) who makes most of her outfits herself and is so creative.

Australia's state finals are all underway now – what trends are you seeing emerging and have you got any favourite finalist(s) (or trends) so far?

I love the strong colours and prints that are coming through in a lot of the finalists and in most states there's two or three looks that I really love.


I’m not envious of the judges having to make their decisions!

What sort of things might you go for in a traditional competition but potentially avoid in a photo-based competition. Likewise, is there anything you'd 'add' or consider when entering a photo comp to better help you stand out?

In a photo competition you can really highlight the intricate details in your outfit or highlight an accessory by choosing your photos well.


It's details like these that can be missed in a runway competition where the judges could be seated a few metres back from the catwalk.

I had over 100 photos to pick from in a variety of different poses and angles for my entry into The Ned Prix de Fashion.


Click the arrows to scroll through the photos Laura submitted as part of her winning entry into The Ned Prix de Fashion 2021

In a traditional [runway] competition, I always think about how an outfit will move and walk (hence my obsession with full skirts!!) - something that's not seen in photos. In both formats though, I think the most important thing is to be confident in what you are wearing and to enjoy it, that shows through regardless!


Have you got any tips for anyone thinking about (travel bubbles & crowd capacities permitting) entering a racewear competition in Australia?

Remember to really back your own individual style.

There are often more entrants in the major Australian competitions so if you are too caught up on trying to include all the trends or emulate somebody who has recently been successful, you risk looking very similar to another competitor.


Do you think we'll start to see a lot of what our Australian counterparts are wearing (in the state competitions) start to translate into kiwi racewear trends this summer, or do you see our own 'style 'emerging?

I think New Zealand is definitely developing its own racewear style – we're bold and not afraid to experiment with new shapes, trends and styles.

2021 Northern Terrritory state finalist Hannah Burns showcasing feathers in her outfit which Laura predicts will become more of a trend in racewear this season

Feathers both as features of clothing or in the construction of headpieces have featured a lot in the state finalists which we haven’t seen a huge amount of here in New Zealand, so I think that might provide some inspiration to some kiwi fashionistas.

As always though, I’m sure us Kiwi girls will do it in our own way.


Any styles you think are now 'done' or are wanting to see emerge?

Personally, I'm starting to move on from strong sleeves – I know they're still featuring in a lot of designers' collections and while they are fun, after being a common feature in racing fashion for the last two years, I'm ready to see something new.

I’d like to see competitors play with hemlines. When a boxier, more conservative top half means you can be a bit shorter with your skirt - then I think go for it!

Also jumpsuits are under-utilised and can be a really fun modern twist.


MYER Fashions on the Field and the associated state finals are competitions that people often look to in order to glean a sense of emerging racewear trends for the remainder of the spring / summer racewear calendar. Without having the benefit of such competitions themselves to get inspo from, where does someone planning an outfit for the Melbourne Cup Carnival look to get ideas?

I've been inspired by TV shows (Bridgerton and Yellowstone were the idea behind my Prix look), as well as using the lack of obvious trends as an opportunity to put together some “bucket list” outfits that might not ever be on trend per say, but that I've always wanted to wear.

Part of Laura's inspiration comes from TV shows such as Bridgerton

Runway shows have also started again in Europe and there have been some amazing looks from the high fashion houses too.

Click the arrows to scroll through a gallery of images from recent European runway shows

Anything else you'd like to add about your experiences competing in Australia?

It’s an amazing experience to be at the Melbourne Cup and to compete so if you are thinking about it, I definitely encourage you to book the trip!

Don’t forget to get out and about as well and enjoy the amazing city that Melbourne is.

Add a few days on each side of the races and check what shows are on, find some cool restaurants and really get out and explore.


While we're no longer racing here at Ellerslie on 2 November, we've still got a lot of great Melbourne Cup content to come as Australasia leads up to the "great race".