The fashion industry has long been criticised for a lack of diversity and representation
The fashion industry has long been criticised for a lack of diversity and representation, but Perth designer Safuratu Bakare is making big strides to break the glass ceiling.
- A fashion show celebrated the launch of Multicultural Integration Australia
- MCIA aims to create awareness to break down cultural stereotypes
- Designer Ms Bakare wants to break down stereotypes about African-Australians
The Nigerian born migrant has been using her cultural heritage to inspire her creations.
“The African fabric is beautiful,” she said.
“Some people call it loud, but I call it bold and beautiful, they are stunning—you can take the African fabric and just turn it into something marvellous.”
Her husband moved around for work, which meant she had the opportunity to learn many other skills.
“I got my cosmetology degree in America, I got my diploma for sewing in South Korea and two-and-a-half years later my husband was transferred back to Nigeria,” she said.
“I started my [fashion] business in Nigeria in 2012, then he was transferred to Australia.”
Highly accomplished, she also works as a registered nurse in Perth but her love for fashion has always been at the forefront.
She mainly uses fabrics such as ankara and aso-oke, which are native to her home country and other parts of Africa.
“Before, [aso-oke] used to be only the rich who could afford it.
“It was made for the chiefs and all that but nowadays it’s available to everybody.
“It’s unique in a sense, it’s like a wool, a cotton wool that is woven together and it comes in stripes that I have to join together piece by piece to create a design,” she explained.
Challenging stereotypes through fashion
Like many other migrants, Ms Bakare is determined to tell her story on her own terms.
“So, I’m using fashion, I’m using my designs to tell the African story in a way I want people to understand it … because most of the time the media don’t give a good perception of the African culture or African way of life.”
Her designs were recently showcased at a local fashion event.
It was in celebration of the launch of Multicultural Integration Australia (MCIA), a new umbrella group designed to create cultural awareness.
The show was hosted in collaboration with Face WA Models and Pageants—a Perth training group for aspiring models from diverse backgrounds, which is now part of the MCIA.
Ms Bakare has taken it as an opportunity to show people the richness of her culture and break negative stereotypes about her community through fashion.
“This platform is important to me.
Helping migrants get into modelling
Filipino migrant Helen Shaw founded Face WA Models and Pageants in 2017.
With a background in modelling and fashion design, she started training young migrant women in Perth to help them compete in pageants and break into the modelling world.
“When I first started this, I only trained the girls in my own backyard,” she said.
Her passion is to empower people of all backgrounds, genders, shapes and sizes to embrace themselves and help them grow their confidence.
“Those girls that wanted to pursue modelling and pageantry and have excelled in this area, we get to send them to represent Australia internationally.
“We bring in so many models from different countries representing their origin and heritage and it’s all about unity.
“We are all Australians, but we have our own origin.
Malaysian-born Ingrid Ngiau is one of Face WA’s newest recruits.
“Growing up, I always loved fashion, I was always experimenting with my own personal style,” she said.
“I used to watch international beauty pageants… and I really enjoyed watching how confident the women were, how they were representing their countries.”
The 29-year-old is a kindergarten teacher by day but freelances as a model in her spare time.
“I’ve always been rather shy and been that kind of person who needs a bit of help and support and encouragement to come out of my shell,” she said.
“It’s been such an amazing journey.
“I was slowly growing in confidence on my own but when I finally joined Face WA, that confidence and feeling of acceptance and that mentoring just helped me grow exponentially.”
She hopes there will be more opportunities in fashion for diverse models like her as more people learn about the importance of inclusiveness.
“When I [first] came here I didn’t really find much celebration of the different cultures, not many people knew where Malaysia was … and there’s been a big improvement since then and things like this help take the steps to getting more respectful and diverse,” she said.
“I feel that every single culture is special on its own, they’ve got their own traditions, festivals, cuisines that’s so special and I think it makes our culture as Australians even richer — to have everyone bringing the best of their culture to the table.”