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Afterpay has withdrawn its support from Australian Fashion Week, in a move that could see some homegrown brands reconsider their participation.

The buy-now, pay-later behemoth signed a three-year, reportedly multimillion-dollar deal in 2020 for the naming rights of the annual, five-day program, held at Sydney’s Carriageworks each May.

But, The Sydney Morning Herald reports Afterpay will no longer be a sponsor here or abroad in New York and London.

“Our objectives for [Australian Fashion Week] were to make an impactful contribution to the industry and its landmark event following the devastating impact of Covid-19,” Afterpay’s country manager for Australia, Katrina Konstas, told The Herald.

The company’s support of the local industry will instead continue through its work with the Australian Retailers Association and the Australian Fashion Council, she said.

Under Afterpay’s sponsorship, the event – which had been backed by Mercedes-Benz since its inception in 1996 – became more accessible for smaller brands, with the waiving of designer fees of about $20,000.

Afterpay co-founder Nick Molnar told the Australian Financial Review when the deal was announced that it was his company’s “responsibility to get behind the fashion industry here in Australia”.

“The fashion industry was the first to embrace us. They were the ones who backed Afterpay to begin with – they got the Millennial and Gen Z attitude to money,” he said, adding the sponsorship could evolve to foreign fashion weeks.

“From Afterpay’s perspective, we are proudly Australian. Having the ability to start with Australia gives us the right learning experience to see what opportunities exist down the track … We are uniquely positioned to take on something like fashion week as it becomes more consumer-facing.”

Now, one brand representative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Herald that small designers may find the cost of staging a runway show – typically upwards of $50,000 – insurmountable, potentially deterring “a lot of emerging designers”.

Founder of swimwear and resort label Bondi Born, Dale McCarthy, said that while it was disappointing Afterpay was moving on, “the event stands on its own two legs”.

“I’m sure the event will find a new partner,” she told the publication.

“It won’t impact our decision to show … There’s no other single form of marketing I can do in a year that can replace this.”

Event owner IMG is yet to announce a replacement sponsor. But, vice president and managing director of IMG Fashion Events and Properties Asia Pacific, Natalie Xenita, said it was committed to Australian Fashion Week for next year and beyond.

“Afterpay joined Australian Fashion Week as title sponsor at an immensely challenging time for the fashion industry,” Ms Xenita said in a statement.

“Their support enabled us to continue providing designers with a global trade and consumer marketing platform during the pandemic.”

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By Rahul

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