Australia’s Pacific Runway event is changing the face of fashion to include Women of colour
Photos by: Leslie Liu
When we talk about sustainable fashion, some of the first things that may come to mind are what materials are being used when sourcing textiles, in which countries were these pieces made and who made them - but some things we may not think of are; is our society at large being represented in fashion, can I relate to the world of fashion because I see myself apart of it in media and advertising and is it really a vehicle communicating where we stand in the world politically, culturally and socially.
So my question is - who is fashion for, or more specifically, who is it being marketed and advertised to?
The answer to that first question is: fashion is for EVERYONE.
The answer to the second question is: fashion - more often than not - is being advertised to the elite, the resourced and a predominantly white audience. So what about the rest of us? Where do we fit in and how do we all access fashion? Here comes my introduction and complete admiration for platforms challenging the status quo like; Pacific Runway, who are disrupting the current fashion narrative in a completely organic, empowering and uplifting way to include Women of Colour. More about this below.
So, in the sustainable and ethical fashion space we often talk about making this way - the eco way - of consuming and creating fashion the norm, not the niche. But one part of the puzzle that tends to be missing in the conversation of sustainability is representation. When we look at people and the planet in the context of ethical and sustainable fashion we seem to be making some of the same mistakes as the mainstream, commercial world of fashion, in that we are catering it to only a certain group of people - therefore being exclusive, not inclusive.
For us to care about fashion, we need to see ourselves mirrored back - if there isn’t a person in whom we can identify with in media, then how do we relate to fashion not only as a story telling vehicle, but also as a tool to progress forward culturally, socially and politically. When we look at some of the dialogue surrounding sustainable fashion; before we critique, judge or assess ones ‘eco’ ways, we first must acknowledge that some groups in society come to the conversation with economic inequalities, which means ethical and sustainable fashion may not be accessible to everyone, even though it is desired. Perhaps we need to redefine or loosen the context of this space so that we have more voices, because when we have more voices - we have a real indication of what our society is made up of. And when we know more about this, this is when we can affect real positive change because we know where we need to learn, grow and adapt to better ways.
So let me introduce you to, Jannike Seilui, the founder of Pacific Runway - a platform created to showcase Pacific designers, but also Pacific talent more broadly from make-up artists’, models, photographers and hair stylists’. Jannike has built and cultivated an inclusive space for Pacific creatives and artists’ who traditionally may not have been given the mainstream exposure or platform to showcase their work to a large audience. It’s Women like Jannike and Pacific Runways publicist, Dusk Devi who are pushing the agenda of ‘diversity being the norm’ in fashion. Not in a tokenistic way, but as a holistic reflection of what this country, and world more broadly, is made up of.
The Pacific Runway included Women of colour with different body shapes, skin colour, hair texture, skin texture, ages, ethnicities and heights. They danced and strutted down the runway full of confidence, with ownership in who they are. This is the story that fashion should tell, that Womanhood is one of difference, not sameness and although our difference, we are all relevant, important and should be visible in media and beyond.
This runway experience should be the template for all future fashion events and shows in this country - it balanced the sophistication of fashion runways while also including a very important element, that being community, collaboration and culture.
When we talk about ethical and sustainable fashion we can no longer ignore the fact that Women of colour are not visible behind the scenes in decision making roles, as well as front and centre in media. But thanks to Women like Jannike and Dusk, we are working towards a more inclusive fashion space that represents all Women.
Because all Women should be embraced, in fashion and beyond.