The Town Of Warburton Hits The Runway

In one of Australia’s most remote locations, in the heart of the country, the town of Warburton is still trying to blink the stars out of their eyes after witnessing an amazing collaboration of creativity.

Warburton Fashion Week 2016 took place this week with the young locals hitting the catwalk in fierce and deadly desert inspired outfits. There are no big name fashion labels or fancy hair and makeup, it is simply individuals standing proud and feeling good.This year’s fashion week revolved around the theme of ‘team’. In a small community like Warburton there are families, work teams, bands, clubs, sports teams and many other organisations. The aim of the initiative was to involve everyone, to bring together the community. People were able to take part in hairdressing, styling, fashion, photography, lighting and music.

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As well as the incredible runway show, another highlight of fashion week is the launch event of Alanya, a fashion book made in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands by the Wilurarra Creative team. Alanya is the result of 2 years work and the collaboration of more than 90 artists, volunteers, facilitators, photographers, writers, editors, models, and stylists. The book contains visual and written fashion stories of the Warburton community, especially of the young people growing up in such an isolated community.

Talking to ABC, Vashti, a local artist and community mentor who works at Wilurarra Creative, the local art centre, said “the local style is personal and developed organically.” The director of Wilurarra Creative, Silvano Giordano who helped with presenting the runway explained that “It’s not serious fashion, there’s not lots of ‘blue steel’,” and that “There’s a lot of laughter and feeling shy, but then standing up and being proud.” The fashion show has been running for a few years now and with each passing year it becomes more and more popular. It is an opportunity for people in the community to stand tall and proud and feel good about their own personal style. It is a way for them to gain a bit of confidence and have fun.

“We want people to feel good about themselves, we want people to be involved, we want people to be doing activities that are fun and relevant, and meaningful to them,” Alex Walton, coordinator of the fashion week

Another initiative taking place in this small community as well as the fashion week is a social change hairdressing salon. As well as offering a new hairstyle, the salon also creates a neutral space for people from different cultures to come together. Mel Balkan, organiser of the salon, explained that “because it’s such an intimate setting; hair dressing — you build trust really quickly.”

Mel Balkan. Photo Credit:

While the fashion week was running there was an announcement that the Wilurarra Creative would be receiving $266,660 of funding. This will be going towards the hairdressing salon. Money like this will enable the salon to become a social enterprise. Talking to the ABC, the director of the salon initiative, Mr Giordano said, “This funding is actually to transition what we have now, a hairdressing program that’s not running all the time into a full blown social enterprise.”

Like most things, it is often only the negative events that seem to be heard about outside of the community. So it is good to have some light shone on such a positive and fun initiative.

“You don’t get to hear or see positive images of Ngaanyatjarra culture, outside of this place that are created by young adults and Ngaanyatjarra people themselves.” – Mr Giordano

With each passing year the fashion show gets bigger and bolder with the confidence of the Warburton community quickly growing.