Walking through the towering glass doors into the backstage wonderland of Afterpay Australian Fashion Week is always a surreal experience. This morning, however, the fresh, sun-soaked entrance marked the beginning of a Fashion Week first. On day three of the prestigious event, First Nation Fashion and Design made history with the first-ever curated presentation of seven Indigenous designers; taking place on the eve of the 29th anniversary of the historic Mabo decision.
A line-up of entirely First Nations models, which also celebrated a first for Fashion Week; the energy backstage was undeniably electric. An hour before the show commenced, models were preparing for their final walkthrough. The usual nerves associated with pre-show jitters almost non-existent; a distinct type of assurance that comes hand-in-hand with knowing that this moment has been a long time coming.
Speaking to First Nations designer Teagan Cowlishaw of AARLI in the bustle of backstage ahead of the show, it's clear that for her and the other designers presenting today, there are few words that will ever adequately express the gravitas of this moment.
"Monumental doesn't even begin to describe how I feel in this moment. I was speaking with Grace [Lillian Lee] this morning, and this is something we have been working at for almost a decade. So, to be finally invited to partner with IMG and bring this show to life... I think it will blow Sydney's mind," she says, donning an unmistakable necklace spelling out DEADLY.
"This is a legacy. It's not a moment, it's a movement. I feel so proud to be following on from the previous designers of the 80s and 90s and to be here now to inspire our children, our community, our family."
As I finished up speaking with Cowlishaw, I caught a quick glimpse of the hair and makeup team doing the final touches. Partnering with REDKEN, the team "moulded and shaped the hair to complement the floral crowns and the natural glow of the makeup look." Team MECCA was taking charge of makeup; which was minimalist and fresh in order to highlight the incredible designs.
One final glimpse of the runway before showtime and it's clear that this show will be one to remember. Stay tuned for an insider look at the First Nation Fashion and Design runway coming soon.