Australia Launches an Indigenous Model Search in Advance of First-Ever Indigenous Fashion Week


Samantha Harris

Australian indigenous model Samantha Harris will be among the competition’s judges.

Samantha_Harris_Vogue_CoverHere’s something we don’t see a lot of in the U.S.: an indigenous model search.  Australia, in advance of its inaugural Australian Indigenous Fashion Week (AIFW) is hosting a modeling competition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders entrants only.

The model search will put qualified, 18 to 27-year-old entrants, both male and female, into a week-long modeling training program in February.  From that crew, sixteen finalists — eight women and eight men — will go on to walk in AIFW.  The idea behind the competition, of course, is to diversify the runway well beyond just AIFW, but the affiliated model search and fashion week are, at least, a start to more non-white faces appearing on any Australian catwalk.

Meanwhile, AIFW will be held in Sydney in mid-April, showcasing about 30 indigenous designers, building their relationships with buyers both local and international.  Australia’s conventional Fashion Week has been gaining in international prestige; hopefully some of its recent success will extend to the brand new AIFW.

Diversity on the runway, or the lack thereof, is an issue much-discussed among the global fashion pack.  While the CFDA makes general recommendations and there’s a lot of talk about including more models of color across fashion editorials, advertising, and runway shows, we all know that brands and designers don’t always step up.  For Australia to introduce a connected modeling search and fashion week, to exclusively seek out and highlight indigenous faces and designers, is a huge step forward, of which other countries should really take note.