Fashion is about much more than making clothes for Western Sydney designer Nicole Oliveria.
- Western Sydney designers showcase their wares for a special runway show
- Emerging artists explore issues of identity, race and culture
- Initiative supports local talent and passion for western suburbs
The 29-year-old believes it is a deeply personal exploration of her Filipino-Australian heritage.
“I don’t find that there’s anything that relates more intimately to the body and therefore about the self than clothes and fashion,” she said.
Ms Oliveria is one of five emerging designers showcasing their wares at the 100% West runway show this week, organised by community groups Information Cultural Exchange (ICE) and opnsrc.co.
Learning to sew as a girl exposed Ms Oliveria to the joys of making clothes, but it was not until she left school that the desire to explore her identity through fashion fully emerged.
“When I started studying fashion, I started to understand the power of it … it was just much more than making really nice clothes,” she said.
Her work evolved into an exploration of the cultural and familial influences that shaped her as a woman with an Australian-Filipino upbringing.
“[I ask] how can I blend those two, almost opposing things together, because that’s what I am — I’m a blend of these two things and that’s what I try to convey in my collection.”
The process has helped her navigate these two worlds and she hopes her work can help other young people do the same.
Ms Oliveria said she also appreciated the chance to build relationships with other local artists.
“It’s just been amazing to connect with other designers from the area, because I kind of felt quite alone as a fashion designer out here,” she said.
Telling Western Sydney stories
The stories of young people from Western Sydney is a driving force for Ginan Tabbouch’s label GTAB.
The Bankstown-based outfit has received some mainstream success with showings at Sydney’s Fashion Week.
Her collections are influenced by conversations around domestic violence, rape, racial profiling, drugs and youth homelessness that are communicated by young people through rap.
Being able to explore these intense issues without using words is important to Ms Tabbouch.
“I love what design is able to give me; a way to tell stories through clothing.”
Telling these stories, Ms Tabbouch said, could be healing for young people from migrant families who experienced hardship growing up.
A platform to show pride
Third-generation Mount Druitt local Riley Fanning honed his craft making custom t-shirts for friends at his skate park.
The founder of brand By Rejjie developed a passion for design over a number of years, filling books with sketches on the back of donut wrappers.
“I just try to get [the designs] out as quick as I can,” he said.
His collection for 100% West has focused on his multi-generational connection to the suburb and its unique take on fashion.
Mr Fanning is proud of the chance to showcase his art and affection for Western Sydney.
“Having someone back me to have a platform to put my stuff out there honestly means the world,” he said.
ICE’s youth engagement producer, Morgan Graham, said the show was an opportunity to support local talent who were passionate about the western suburbs.
“It’s really nice to be able to support people who want to work in the area and want to create here,” she said.
“To give them a space where they can explore their own creative practice, explore their creative voice, is really joyful, because it means that people don’t have to seek it out elsewhere.”