The Sealink Kangaroo Island Racing Carnival kicks off on Thursday, February 20 before Saturday’s $25,000 Dudley Wines Kangaroo Island Cup. Over 3000 visitors will gather trackside at Cygnet River on February 22 with PIMMS, Pirate Life beer and Dudley Wines bars on offer. SA’s favourite weekend getaway will also play host to Fashions on the Field, and with transit to the island at its most accessible, there is no better excuse for a stylish sojourn.
Our FATR 2018-2019 winner Alex Hecker will be attending as a Fashions on the Field guest judge, having stunned judges with her look from last year’s competition. Although Alex resides in Victoria, the model and Guide Dogs Ambassador has been holidaying on the island for the past decade. “My dad discovered Kangaroo Island in 2009 and fell in love with its natural beauty,” Alex said.
“He went on a solo trip at first and then brought the family back the following year to share in all that the island has to offer,” she said. “My first year attending the races and entering the KI Cup Fashions on the Field was in 2012 and it’s still one of my favourite country race meets to date.”
Alex’s favourite destinations on KI include Emu Bay, Island Beehive, Remarkable Rocks, Little Sahara, Stokes Bay, Fine Art Kangaroo Island and Southern Ocean Lodge, which is in the planning stage of recreation following the recent bushfires. “I can’t wait to visit again once they’re back on their feet,” Alex said of the iconic hotel.
“Kangaroo Island has such a wonderful community vibe, with the Kangaroo Island Racing Carnival arguably being one of their biggest events on the calendar - and they really know how to throw a party,” Alex said. “From the minute I walk over the bridge and onto the front lawn, I feel a sense of excitement,” she said. “I also love that there is something for everyone, whether it be for families, fashionistas or a group of guys and gals just celebrating a great day out.”
Alex’s 2019 winning ensemble took three months of planning; the horse-lover was taken by the themed print on the Lisa Barron Equinesse dress in November 2018. “I then asked the designer to add mesh sleeves matching the mesh insert down the left side of the dress,” Alex said. “I ordered my gorgeous black brim hat from well-known milliner, Stephanie Spencer as she is a true master of the big brim,” she said. “I had silk ties added for a more dramatic affect.”
The pop of mustard on Alex’s headpiece was a crafty addition from the handle of her handbag. “One I had sitting in my wardrobe from an event 12 months prior, and a cheap way to add a pop of colour,” she said. “Lastly, I wanted shoes that were interesting but didn’t take away from the elegance of the outfit, so I jumped onto the ASOS website and found a classic stiletto heel with a clear and mesh toe.”
“It’s so difficult to predict what the FOTF judges will like on the day, so I usually stick to a classic style but add unique and interesting details to try and stand out,” Alex said. “I really loved the horse print on my Lisa Barron dress, which I felt was super appropriate for a race day fashions event.”
Alex’s first race day was the Fashions on the Field event at the 2011 Geelong Cup – mostly memorable due to her hat blowing off while she walked down the runway. “I always use bobby pins to pin my millinery to my head, after having one too many ‘hat-ccidents’ on windy days,” Alex said. “I’ve also been the victim to blisters so bad, that my feet now have scarring, so wearing an outfit nowadays that feels comfortable is extremely important.”
Having grown up on a farm, Alex’s love for horses extended to caring for her own ex-racehorse. “When I started attending racing events, I was in awe of some of the elegant outfits on show,” Alex said. “It’s such a great opportunity to feel super stylish wearing hats, gloves and heels,” she said. “I also love the social aspect which I quickly learnt is a huge part of the racing fashion world, and I have met some beautiful people over the years.”
This season, Alex is loving florals, arty prints and millinery with big bows or brims. “I think you can wear any pattern or fabric if you accessorise properly,” she said. “Always apply the golden rule – Keep It Simple - which doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun with some extravagant accessories.”
To catch Alex’s eye on the catwalk, consider a classic outfit with a contemporary twist. “The winning outfit should adhere to the current Summer trends, have attention to detail, be weather appropriate for the day and also represent the individual’s own personal style,” Alex said. “The thing that I love about a Fashions on the Field competition is that it doesn’t discriminate,” she said. “If you’ve put together a killer outfit then you have my vote just as much as the person next to you.”
For FOTF first-timers, Alex recommends collating a look that makes you feel confident, forgetting the nerves and rocking something you love with a smile. “This is a big one for me,” Alex said. “Fashions on the Field is not a Milan fashion runway, so enjoy the moment and smile to your family and friends in the crowd,” she said. “It’s amazing how much more radiant an outfit looks with a smile; it’s your cheapest accessory.”
This year’s Best Dressed Womenswear Winner will receive a two-night stay at Southern Ocean Lodge’s sister property Silky Oaks Lodge in Far North Queensland and will automatically enter the FATR People’s Choice Awards Competition. The Runner-up competitor will receive a two-night stay at The Seafront Eco Luxury Tents from Kangaroo Island Seafront Group, plus a return ferry fare for two, including a vehicle, by SeaLink. Under 12 girls and boys winners will take home $100 cash.
While Alex is a last-minute planner, we can expect to see her in a Review dress on the 22nd. “The rest is still coming together,” Alex said. “Fortunately, I have accumulated quite a racing fashion wardrobe over the years and have many go-to pieces to pull an outfit together quickly.”
Mastering her makeup in a holiday set-up is quite a feat, but Alex insists on making magic with what you have on hand. “I believe it’s a great skill to know how to do hair and make-up on the go,” Alex said. “I’ve even been known to do my make-up in the car or on a plane,” she said. “Occasionally I like to use local hairdressers and make-up artists as it’s a way of supporting their town and it means I don’t have to worry about doing my own hair and make-up on the day.”
“I’m looking forward to once again spending a beautiful day at the races with my family and having a bet on some horses - if anyone has any good tips please come up and share them with me,” Alex said. “Naturally, I cannot wait to see all of the incredible South Australian racing fashion, both on the stage and in the crowd,” she said. “However, above all, I just want see the Kangaroo Island community have a fun-filled, successful day.”
The presenter and MC feels honoured to be a part of the judging panel this year. “Due to the recent devastation to parts of the island, numbers for this year’s KI Racing Carnival are anticipated to be at an all-time high, largely driven by the amazing #bookthemout campaign,” Alex said. “Winning the Kangaroo Island Cup Fashions on the Field, representing Kangaroo Island at The Races SA Final, and being announced as the overall winner has been a privilege and an awesome journey,” she said. “I’m super excited that someone else now has the opportunity to experience this feeling too.”
All profits generated from the Island’s 2019/2020 racing season will be donated to the Kangaroo Island Mayoral Relief and Recovery Bushfire Fund, going directly to the islanders who have been affected. If you cannot make it to a race day, you can find donation details here.