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    Where Are The Indigenous Models At Sydney Fashion Week?

    As Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week celebrates two decades of Australian fashion one thing is missing: Indigenous models on the catwalk.

    Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

    Monocultural shows.

    The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Sydney turned it on for its 20th anniversary this week.

    Models swished down runways showcasing the country's best designers, but Indigenous fashion commentators have criticised the festival for having a distinct lack of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander faces.

    47 shows, two Aboriginal models.

    Stefan Gosatti / Getty Images

    Model Samantha Harris

    Getty Images

    Model Lauren Feenstra

    Fashion favourite Samantha Harris walked for several shows and Aboriginal model Lauren Feenstra was in high demand.

    "The industry is missing a massive opportunity here to be different and fresh, it's disappointing that the industry is not embracing our uniquely Australian heritage and showcasing Indigenous models" – Yatu Widders Hunt.

    Aboriginal fashion writer Yatu Widders Hunt (left), a founding member of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Clean Cut Designer Showcase, says Australian Fashion Week is at risk of becoming a bland recycled version of other international fashion weeks.

    Not a lack of talent.

    Mopoke Media

    Managing Director of Mopoke Media, James Saunders, showcased eleven aspiring Indigenous models in a photoshoot last year, revealing a burgeoning modelling scene of fresh faces, hungry for work.

    The lack of diversity in Australian fashion shocked supermodel Naomi Campbell when she visited Australia in 2000.

    Peter Michael Dills / Getty Images

    Recalling the trip, Campbell told the UK's The Telegraph, "One time, I went to Australia, the editor-in-chief of a magazine there told me that she got fired for putting me on the cover. I do remember going there and saying, "Where's the Aboriginal model? There should be one. They're beautiful women."

    "It's shameful that our Indigenous models and designers get more attention internationally than they do at home" – Shaun Edwards.

    Wild Barra Co.

    Wild Barra Co. designer Shaun Edwards

    Wild Barra Co.

    Wild Barra Co. advertisment

    Wild Barra Co. swimwear line designer Shaun Edwards, based in far north Queensland, draws on his heritage for inspiration.

    "We are actively fighting be seen as equals in this country," he says. "And that is also true in the fashion industry. The problem is major Australian agencies don't think they [Indigenous models] will get work."

    Designers and models were holding out hope.


    Industry insiders believed the much vaunted launch of Australian Indigenous Fashion Week (AIFW) last year in Sydney would open the doors.

    The AIFW showcased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers and models, and representatives from the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival were involved in the initiative.

    An Indigenous designer involved with the AIFW told BuzzFeed News that talks to include Indigenous models in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival started well but went cold at the eleventh hour.

    "I was so hopeful of showing my collection at MBFW, I worked through Christmas to get it ready. I was told by the organisers that time had run out for this year and there was no spot left, despite being promised one last year" – Indigenous designer.

    Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

    BuzzFeed News contacted Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia for comment and were told the choice of models came down to designers and their agencies.

    Mercedes-Benz Australian Fashion Week ends tomorrow.

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