Moree-born Tamworth resident Colleen Tighe Johnson talks New York Fashion Week 2017, Cannes Film Festival

Colleen Tighe Johnson steps out onto the runway after her show during New York Fashion Week.

Colleen Tighe Johnson steps out onto the runway after her show during New York Fashion Week.

AS IF putting her designs on the runway at New York Fashion Week wasn’t exciting enough, Moree-born Colleen Tighe Johnson has now been invited to showcase her clothing at the 70th Cannes Film Festival.

Ms Tighe Johnson is in talks with fashion events producer Myriam Larriere for her line Buluuy Mirrii to be one of the partner brands at the glitzy event in May.

It means her Gomeroi heritage-inspired designs will be seen by VIPs such as actors, directors and producers – and she’s hoping one might even choose to wear her label on the red carpet.

‘Like royalty’: backstage at New York Fashion Week in Colleen Tighe Johnson’s own words (see below story)

The Tamworth resident has just returned from New York, where she was the first international Indigenous designer to do a Plitz showcase on the first day of the world-renowned fashion festival.

She presented 30 of her designs, one of her models being young Tamworth man Zarayn Knight.

Ms Tighe Johnson – “this little girl from Moree” who had never even travelled out of the state until a few years ago – said “lots of doors have opened” recently, and stressed her work was about more than just herself.

The fabric used in her designs often feature traditional artwork created by her cousin, Moree artist Ann Johnson, and Ms Tighe Johnson usually takes regional models to show off her fashions.

Even the music she uses when her models hit the runway is traditional Gomeroi music; in New York it was based around clapsticks and didgeridoo by Tamworth’s Bareki Knox and Mark Atkins.

Also the creator of Aboriginal leadership program Miyay/Buluuy Mirrii, she uses fashion and modelling opportunities as a way to sustain Gomeroi Dreaming stories and culture in young people’s lives.

“The way I look at it is, I’ve been given a job to do by my ancestors, and I’m really grateful for that, and now I’m just following what’s being put in front of me,” Ms Tighe Johnson said.

“To be able to work with people and create pathways through the fashion industry, it’s just exquisite. It’s more than amazing, it’s a dream come true …

“Somebody said, ‘You have to choose between community development and fashion’, but to me, one goes with the other.”

Ms Tighe Johnson is seeking corporate sponsorship to make the Cannes opportunity happen; email her at

What it’s like to showcase during New York Fashion Week: in Colleen Tighe Johnson’s own words

“It was frantic. I was not nervous, not anxious, but it was like, ‘I’m here … breathe’.

“I was dressing, like I always do. They do have dressers out the back, but I like to be hands-on because I know what goes where…

“When I heard the music and the announcement [also recorded by Mr Knox], my heart just dropped and I knew it was time.

“At the end of the show when I came out on the runway, I think I nearly died – usually when I come out, there’s lights and a photographer, but here there were five tiers of cameras.

“Then I was rushed to a press conference, where I was put in the middle of a long table, with reporters from all these different publications …

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it before.

“Being in New York, my mind was open, so being able to be on that stage and be the first international Indigenous designer to open fashion week for Plitz was amazing…

“I felt like royalty and I was just sort of blown away.

“Nothing sank in until I was on the plane on the way back.”