For the third year in a row, Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) will continue its Changemakers’ program to showcase diverse fashion enthusiasts. The Changemakers of 2023 include Asia Hassan, Basjia Almaan, Jackie Wu, James Parr, Miguel Urbina Tan, and Mike Nguyen.
The AAFW Changemakers are comprised of influential people in the fashion world, whether that be designers, casting directors, or models. They represent diverse interests; including the queer, POC, and disabled communities.
Here are this year’s powerful and stylish Changemakers.
James Parr is a Wiradjuri model and disability advocate. He became a below-the-knee amputee at age 21. His disability was the impetus for discovering fashion as a method of self-expression and representation for the disabled community.
Parr uses his platform to advocate for others who have felt “othered” and to encourage them “to find inner confidence and a sense of belonging within themselves”.
Furthermore, as an Aboriginal and bisexual man, Parr strives to subvert gender norms in fashion:
“Brands doing this help others feel more comfortable and included and secondly, it educates and shows people that clothing shouldn’t have a gender.”
Basjia Almaan aspired to be a model as a teenager. Once she left high school she realised, “I don’t actually think this [fashion] industry would be a space that I would feel comfortable in.”
So, she took matters into her own hands.
At 21, Almaan was recruited by Bella Management, where she started to create her own shoots, and collaborate with different photographers, hair stylists and makeup artists.
Over the last decade, she has grown into herself and found her unique style:
“It’s [wild], just who I am now because I’m always wearing minimal clothing and dancing on stages and so proud to be who I am.”
At AAFW, Almaan will be working as a casting director. She wants to ensure that not only do diverse models get casted, but also for their experiences on shoot from start to finish to be carefully considered.
“Having a Black, Indigenous or person of colour as a model is fab, and that’s what we want to see. But did [the makeup artist] know how to do their makeup? Did the person who was on hair know how to do their hair? Did you actually ask them if they felt comfortable?”
Chinese-Australian Jackie Wu, primarily known as the founder and creative director of ‘Wackie Ju’, aims to create a non-binary utopian fashion realm.
Wackie Ju defies the concept of gendered fashion and creates clothing that is free for anyone of any gender identity to wear. Each piece is elegant and powerful, yet also conveys a political or social message.
When asked what change the fashion industry needs, Jackie responded:
“There is not enough POC in a highly recognised position to influence people, and it does cause a lot of hierarchy and single-sided information [for] one community to represent this industry.”
Therefore, diverse models is not enough. The creative minds behind the art also need to be from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Mike Nguyen is a Vietnamese-Australian model, designer, art director, photographer.
From a young age, Mike found himself defying heteronormative and masculine norms. He felt pressured by his Vietnamese community to align with traditional values and practices. On the other hand, he faced racial discrimination from the Australian community.
This inner turmoil led to an eating disorder and body dysmorphia, struggles which are very common within the modelling world.
A turning point in Mike’s life was at age 23 when he came out as gay:
“I stopped caring about what other people thought of me. Part of learning to love myself more was learning more about who I was and my culture.”
Now, Mike encourages others to embrace their culture and sexuality through fashion. We can choose to dress however makes us comfortable and should not let the judgement of others disturb our truth.
Asia Hassan was born during the Somali Civil War and grew up between Somalia and Kenya. Despite discouragements from her family, Asia knew that fashion was her dream field.
Her brand, Asiyam focuses on creating modest clothing with a wider scope than most fashion designers. To her, dressing modestly should not limit someone’s fashion choices.
However, Asia does not want to restrict her clothes to a certain market. Whilst her main target market is people within her religious and cultural community, she also wants her looks to be wearable for anyone.
Asiyam empowers women to have agency over their clothing choices and to tell the world that they are not dressing modestly for anyone else but themselves.
Her line is the first modest brand to be included in Melbourne Fashion Week.
Miguel Urbina Tan
Miguel Nguyen‘s repertoire consists of Acting Fashion and Market Editor of Vogue Australia, editor of Harper’s Bazaar, stylist, and photographer.
Subscribe to FIB’s Weekly Breaking News Report for your weekly dose of music, fashion and pop culture news!