In the past São Paulo Fashion Week, the fifth biggest fashion week in the world, has long been seen as bias towards white models.
But this year, thanks to Australian and Brazilian designer Vanessa Moe, 12 Indigenous Australian girls will have the chance to be seen on the world stage.
Launching the careers of several Victoria’s Secret models, as well as the highest paid model in the world – Giselle Bündchen, to say this is a great opportunity is an understatement.
“I watched documentaries, I read things - to show respect and to showcase the richness of the culture.”
“To walk at São Paulo Fashion Week and know that Giselle was discovered there I think ‘that could be me’ so that’s a really big deal,” model Kaitlen Dodd told NITV.
“There’s going to be heaps of journalists and other people from the media industry so it would give me heaps of exposure.”
Most of the models were supplied by Sydney agency Terri Creatives after a Facebook campaign to find the talent. The agency will be representing the girls, and ensuring they have a safe and enjoyable trip.
“It is my duty to foresee that the model squad are escorted safely to and from Brazil, to handle all of their affairs during Sao Paulo Fashion Week, look after their wellbeing, and do what is in the best interest of all my models while on location - and of course returned safely back to Australia,” Terri Creatives owner, Terri Smith said.
The models will be wearing Vanessa’s CIRCLES collection, which is Australian Indigenous inspired and supported by First Hand Solutions and Warlukurlangu Artists of Yuendumu.
Vanessa said she developed her collection in consultation with several Aboriginal organisations and communities to ensure cultural sensitivity, and that she has not used any prints or replica prints in her designs.
“I watched documentaries, I went to libraries, I read things, looked at things online in order to make sure we show the proper respect, and that we know what we’re using it is respectful and just showcase the richness of the culture,” Vanessa said.
She developed a fascination with Aboriginal culture when she moved to Australia, and she hopes to create more curiosity through her designs, as well as give a big boost to the model’s careers.
“They’re stunning, beautiful, professional models and we think it will be a fantastic opportunity to launch their international careers,” Vanessa said.
“São Paulo fashion week is the largest fashion week in the southern hemisphere. It has a reach of around five million people around the world, so it’s just behind Paris, Milan, New York and London.”
Terri said the casting process took approximately three weeks with all applicants were submitted to Vanessa, who had the final say on who would be gracing the catwalk in her designs.
“There were so many beautiful Indigenous models who applied I really wish I could take them all, however I have given the women who were unsuccessful a chance to sign with my agency in Sydney for representation for the next 12 Months,” Terri said.
“I feel very fortunate to be a part of this project and to be able to offer this opportunity to our indigenous woman to create this pathway for them is so satisfying.”
For models like Kaitlen Dodd, not only is this a blessing for their careers, but some have never been overseas.
“I’m really grateful to be going and I’ve never been overseas before so I mean, I’m pretty nervous but it will be really good.”
São Paulo Fashion Week will be held in September this year.
Models confirmed include: