Words by Rachel Trevarthen
Fashion is as much a part of culture as food, language and art but often it isn’t as meaningful or connected to tangible benefits for diverse communities.
The Pacific Fashion Festival (PFF) is changing all of that. Making fashion accessible, inclusive and most importantly purposeful.
Held recently in Ashgrove Brisbane, the PFF is an empowerment initiative by the Leniata Legacy to showcase the talent, art and culture of designers and models across the Pacific.
Cassaundra (Cassie) Rangip, one of the founders of the Leniata Legacy spoke to SIBW about the event.
“Women coming today are from Pacific Island countries or Papua New Guinea (PNG). We are very new countries in the developing world and we all have similar issues of confidence and self esteem in trying to compete with the advanced world,” she says.
The show included male and female models and seeks to create opportunities for young Pacific entrepreneurs by lowering the barriers to entry and allowing them to leverage off each other.
“Some of the models here today wouldn’t have applied for mainstream modelling competitions. What we are doing is creating a platform in a professional setting where people can participate in modelling and design so as to gain recognition on a stage.”
“We’ve also partnered with African and Arab communities to embrace diversity and learn from their achievements as they are more advanced in the fashion world,” Cassie says.
The PFF is not just about fashion however. It is an empowerment initiative, born out of creative advocacy to change the culture of violence towards women across the Pacific.
“One side of the PFF is fundraising, but 80% of the purpose is to empower PNG and Pacific Islander men and women and to realise violence against women is issue we all face and the cultural normality surrounding it is unacceptable,” Cassie says.
The Leniata Legacy (TLL) was born after the brutal killing of a woman named Kepara Leniata in Papua New Guinea and works to change the culture towards women in the Pacific Region through awareness, advocacy, charity, education and economic empowerment.
“The killing of Kepara Leniata was an eye opener for all of us of how silence can be so violent. It got to the extent where this was almost a publicly sanctioned violence,” Cassie says.
Since this tragic event TLL have worked tirelessly to ensure that Leniata’s death will not be in vain. Through creative advocacy they have brought the issue to mainstream attention in PNG.
“From that we did a massive cry out and a protest march in Brisbane city with hundreds of people. A lot of men were against it, even men who had grown up in and committed violence. We started to learn more about the cultural norms creating the issue and doing education programs,” Cassie says.
“It’s now the top of news agenda in PNG, which it wasn’t in the past and the other notable step forward is an amendment to the Family Protection Act allowing for women to lodge claims against domestic violence.”
To support TLL and their work, visit them online.