Just as both America’s Best Racing and Fashion at the Races are trying to gain new fans for the racing industry, Australian racing saw the need to do this years ago and created a fabulous four-week Spring Carnival that showcases amazing Thoroughbred athletes as well as the social spectacle that is race day. By incorporating a lifestyle of fashion and fun to accompany the thrill of gambling and the spectacle of such magnificent animals, Australia has solidified its racing industry as among the strongest in the world today.
Lisa Tan is a professional milliner (http://www.lisatanmillinery.com) and an avid Australian racing fan (and not necessarily in that order) who attends Australia’s Spring Carnival every year and gets involved in all aspects of the events. We caught up with her to give us her spin on the fabulous week.
“It’s the atmosphere – it’s unlike any other racing carnival I’ve attended in Australia and also the world,” she said. “It just has this spirit, this sense of celebration that’s so unique, and so much fun.”
The Spring Carnival is the largest and most pristine racing week in Australia. Held in Melbourne, all the men and ladies come out to the races in their best dress. Whether an avid racing fan or just a socialite, the fashion and fun is at its peak. The carnival consists of Australia’s biggest purses, best racehorses and (hopefully) its most beautiful weather. It can be broken up into three aspects: the racing itself, the Fashions on the Field, and the social side, best represented by the “Birdcage.”
The Birdcage is the premium marquee enclosure (area) where celebrities, businessmen and businesswomen, and all the socialites of Melbourne come together in their fabulous fashion and, well, socialize during the races. More than 100,000 people regularly attend the races on Melbourne Cup day, but only a small group get to enjoy the birdcage. This invite-only area offers sponsorship opportunities to businesses with naming rights, TV rights, and, of course, product placements that could pay off big if celebrities are pictured there.
“I love the fashion – the ladies in Australia put in so much effort, no matter which enclosure they’re attending,” Tan said. “You see just as well-dressed women in general admission as you do in the members’ enclosure. That never happens in Europe – it’s very rare to see a hat in the silver ring at Royal Ascot.”
The Birdcage name can give you an idea of the area. Each section is a different surrounding made, of course, by the naming sponsor. For example, this year there was the Lexus enclosure, black slate backgrounds surrounded by pretty greens giving a classy, earthy feel.
There also was was the Lavazza enclosure with a hot pink and white background to bring out the colors of spring.
RICKI LEE, MENA SUVARI, AND VOGUE WILLIAMS
Most easily relatable to American racing would be “Millionaires Row” at the Kentucky Derby. This is where you'd find all of our stars hanging out and enjoying the race day. There are still major differences:
With Millionaires Row, anyone can buy a ticket (with lots of money!) for this section, which is not the case with the Birdcage. There are no fabulous decorations and branding as it’s within the walls of Churchill Downs and just offers boxes and dining rooms. Where many celebrities are paid to attend the Kentucky Derby, many celebrities just want to attend the Spring Carnival. Tickets to the “hot and happening” marquees are the most sought-after item in town ... something we in the U.S. need to work on. Millionaires Row patrons can walk 20 feet to a window and see the races, with the Birdcage many of the people won't even see a live race that day, yet they still love to go.
“The Spring Carnival is incredibly important for creating racing fans, and keeping racing fans,” Tan said. “The Victorian racing clubs have really done a stellar job with the marketing of the carnival, to the extent that it’s now a major part of most people’s social calendars – and you don’t even have to understand racing to enjoy it.
“I feel like it’s not really ‘The Sport of Kings’ anymore in Australia – it belongs to the people now, whereas in Britain racing is still very much for the wealthy. Of course, in the UK it’s more about the horses than it is the fashion or the other social activities that take place off the track. It’s a purist’s game over here, and I’m not sure if that will ever change. However, they only need to look at the health and strength of Australia’s racing industry to see that; whatever they’re doing it, it’s obviously working.”
The Spring Carnival is the pristine example at what a great day (or weeks) at the races should be and should offer. Through fashion, fabulous food and drink, stylish people, and, of course, amazing racehorses, the Spring Carnival does everything right and is a great day for everyone. America needs to look at this carnival and work to create this image for our race days.
Stay tuned for Part II of the Spring Carnival Blog, which gives you all the juicy details of the Fashions on the Field competition!