I've recently become more inclined to embrace my South Asian heritage in my personal style, and I kept this in mind when dressing up for Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) over the past few days. There were gold jhumkas and glistening Indian necklaces teamed with western dresses, an ode to the Indo-fusion trend that's become increasingly popular in recent years.
While the presence of South Asian designers showing at Australian Fashion Week has been rather limited (though Afghan Australian Mariam Seddiq had a runway this year which is cause for celebration), what was uplifting to see as a brown woman was a great presence of South Asian talent otherwise.
Whether it was Maria Thattil sitting front-row, or journalists Kriti Gupta and Divya Venkataraman on the ground, South Asian women were showing up and representing in a space that has been shaped by whitewashed beauty standards for so long.
The involvement of South Asian-founded brands behind the scenes was also promising to see. Shaanti Wallbridge and Tali Mason are the women behind All Shades Matter (ASM). It's a cosmetics brand with foundation shades catering for darker skin tones. ASM's core foundation called the MATTERfying foundation was used by makeup artist, Chris Arai on the faces of several models at the Erik Yvon runway show on Tuesday.
As for South Asian faces on the runway, we saw the likes of Jeremy Franco, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran and Maab modelling at the Iordanes Spyridon Gogos show, and Rowi Singh on the Nicol & Ford catwalk on Thursday. Rowi's own brand of face accessories and gems called, 'Embellish', also featured on the models at the show.
"Embellish on the runway for @nicolandford 😭😭😭 what an honour to be part of the makeup direction for such a spectacular show," Rowi wrote on Instagram.
The Punjabi Australian content creator also spoke out about the abundance of creativity amongst culturally diverse talent at Australian Fashion Week, and the fact that their work often goes unnoticed. Overseas content creator @stylingemilybeaney on TikTok shared a video this week that went viral, in which she questioned the quality of fashion at Australian Fashion Week and suggested it's merely an "influencer event".
Reacting to the video with her own response on TikTok, Rowi said: "We shift our gaze away from the traditional Australian influencer, you'll find creatives, stylists, fashion girlies who are really bringing something unique to the table. They're pulling from their own individual style, and a lot of these people are people of colour who are not being spotlighted enough in Australian Fashion Week.
"Australia will never be like New York or London, because the vibe and culture is so, so different. But there are people who are pulling looks."
Well said, Rowi! People of colour (including us brown people) are unapologetically serving up our own style, and we're not going anywhere.