Moree-born Aboriginal fashion designer Colleen Tighe Johnson is continuing to make waves in the international fashion industry following her hugely successful showcase opening at PLITZS New York Fashion Week in February this year.
Ms Tighe Johnson’s home-grown Gomeroi fashion label Buluuy Mirrii took centre stage during its international runway debut in New York earlier this year, and now it is set to gain even more exposure after Ms Tighe Johnson was invited back to New York to showcase her designs during PLITZS fall fashion week in September.
Four Aboriginal models will be joining her in New York in September, including Tamworth’s Zarayn Knight and Shavenia Chapfield from Port Macquarie whose father is from Gomeroi country in Coonabaraban.
While in New York, Ms Tighe Johnson’s designs will feature in a photo shoot in Times Square as part of a marketing campaign for the Buluuy Mirrii label.
The Tamworth-based designer will then head to Canada where she has been invited to take part in Fashion Speaks International at Kamloops, British Columbia with other first nations designers and make-up artists from around the world.
Ms Tighe Johnson said these opportunities were too good to pass up.
“It’s about being able to have that overseas exposure and being able to connect in two different countries is an opportunity that will only give more exposure to my label,” she said.
“They are creating so many opportunities, not just for me, but for my community, but they are running my personal finances dry.”
Ms Tighe Johnson has launched a fundraising campaign through the Australian Cultural Fund to help her get to New York and Canada this September.
She is hoping to raise about $5,000 to go towards the cost of design fees, travel and accommodation and hopes the people of Moree can get behind her.
“Moree’s home and I’m very passionate about my hometown and being able to showcase to the world who I am and where I’ve come from is very overwhelming,” she said.
When she returns from the US and Canada this year, Ms Tighe Johnson will then be setting her sights on a big 2018, during which she’ll be taking her designs to Paris Fashion Week in February and then dressing the stars on the red carpet as part of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival in May.
The Buluuy Mirrii label will also be getting some more local exposure a bit closer to home when it is featured on the runway at Westfield Eastgardens during their NAIDOC Week celebrations on July 6.
With all this national and international success, Ms Tighe Johnson is not only boosting her career and label, but showcasing Moree and Aboriginal people to the world.
Ms Tighe Johnson is passionate about inspiring other Aboriginal people, particularly those from Moree, to follow their dreams and said she hopes to pave the way for other indigenous designers and artists.
“It’s about empowerment of Aboriginal woman – as an Aboriginal woman, it’s empowering me to inspire other designers, models and artists to follow their vision,” she said.
“The picture is much bigger than me. My job is to empower and inspire and showcase to the world so I can create a pathway and inspire other people in the art or fashion or whatever field their interest lies, to be able to follow their dreams.”
If you would like to support Colleen and help fund her trip to New York and Canada this September, go to https://australianculturalfund.org.au/projects/spirit-of-my-ancestors-buluuy-mirrii/
What did Colleen Tighe Johnson think of New York Fashion Week?
“It was absolutely amazing,” she said.
“I think it opened my eyes, and I thought, ‘I’m a designer’.
“It made me realise that I felt like a designer and I was treated like a designer.
“When I was dressing my models in the line-up, ready to go out and the music started to play, the didgeridoo played and my heart dropped and I thought, ‘this is it’.
“I don’t think I’ve seen so many cameras in all my life.
“It was like ‘coming out’ as a designer.
“It was like an awakening and being able to be part of New York Fashion Week will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
What advice does Colleen have for young Aboriginal women?
“Follow your heart, follow your dreams,” she said.
“Don’t have tunnel vision, wider scope is there.
“If they can start off so much younger than I did, there’s so much out there – the world’s your oyster.
“I can’t change the past but I can absolutely change the future and that’s what my vision is all about.”