Moree-born, Tamworth-based fashion designer Colleen Tighe Johnson named NSW Emerging Creative Talent at 2018 NSW Creative Achievement Awards

Moree-born, Tamworth-based Aboriginal fashion designer Colleen Tighe Johnson has been recognised for her innovative designs and contribution to culture and the arts at the 2018 NSW Creative Achievement Awards on Tuesday night.

Ms Tighe Johnson’s Buluuy Mirrii label won the NSW Emerging Creative Talent Award for its originality, innovation and international exposure in the world of haute couture fashion.

“I’m very emotional, I just wasn’t expecting it, I’m still in total shock,” Ms Tighe Johnson told The Moree Champion while holding back tears on Wednesday.

“I’m overwhelmed with the support, it’s just been amazing.

“My late mother is a big part of it; ‘Because of her I can’, and I did! I’m just so emotional.”

Wearing a suit she’d made herself – originally to wear at the 71st Cannes Film Festival – which featured the yurrandaali (the Kamilaroi totem of the sand goanna – also the symbol of Moree), Ms Tighe Johnson accepted the award literally wearing her community on her sleeve.

“There were 70 entrants and it got culled to three, so I was really honoured to be one of three finalists,” Ms Tighe Johnson said. 

“When they announced me as the winner, the judges came up to me and said how honoured they were to meet me. They couldn’t get over that [Buluuy Mirrii] was all about my community, my nation and my cultural heritage.”

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Awarded to a rising talent who has shown leadership, originality and innovation in growing the industry’s global profile, the NSW Emerging Creative Talent Award includes a $15,000 cash prize for career development.

Ms Tighe Johnson said this prize not only takes a lot of financial pressure off her and her husband, but it means her dream of launching her first Buluuy Mirrii clothing line will become a reality.

“It actually opens the door financially for the label,” she said.

“I’ll be able to put Buluuy Mirrii into production; I’m hoping to do that before the summer.

“All the networking and showcasing I’ve done has given me a great opportunity to launch. All the hard work begins now.

“This is just the beginning. I’m now another step closer to my vision.”

Buluuy Mirrii, which means Black Star in the Gomeroi language, aims to harness the spirit of Ms Tighe Johnson’s ancestors and tell their story through fashion, using artworks created by local Gomeroi artists, many of whom are related to Ms Tighe Johnson.

“Buluuy Mirrii’s designs, which have featured at international haute couture runways including New York, tell the story of Colleen’s traditional Gomeroi culture to an international audience,” Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson said in congratulating Ms Tighe Johnson on her award.

“Colleen’s impact might now have reached international status but her commitment to her home community remains rock solid – her passion for youth development is embodied through the Buluuy Mirrii Youth Program and her social enterprise Miyay Mirrii delivers important life-skills workshops to Aboriginal youth in regional NSW.

“We’re very lucky to have outstanding creative talents like Colleen making such an important contribution to our region’s culture and society.

“Creative industries are significant drivers of innovation, jobs and our economy so it’s great to see rising stars like Colleen get deserved recognition.”

Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said the NSW Creative Achievement Awards, now in their fifth year, showcased the incredible strength and diversity of the state’s creative individuals and organisations.

“The awards reward outstanding achievers that help raise the global profile of NSW’s Creative Industries, like Tamworth’s Colleen Tighe Johnson,” Mr Harwin said.

“More than 200,000 people, 42 per cent of the nation’s entire creative industries workforce, are employed in NSW making an immense contribution to our state in terms of innovation, job creation and economic growth.”

Ms Tighe Johnson’s next project is the inaugural ‘Making History’ First Nations fashion parade in Sydney as part of 2018 NAIDOC Week, which celebrates the essential role that women have played - and continue to play - as active and significant role models with this year’s theme ‘Because of her, we can’. She will then head back to New York to participate in 2018 New York Fashion Week, where she plans to launch some of the designs from her upcoming line.

Ms Tighe Johnson’s fashion line will eventually be available online at www.buluuymirrii.com, as well as in selected boutique stores.

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