We Spoke To The Founder & Publicist Behind Australia’s Largest Pacific Fashion Show

The catwalk is set to come alive next Friday night at Sydney’s Carriageworks – the home of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia – for PACIFIC RUNWAY, Sydney’s most reputable Pacific Fashion event.

This platform has been designed to showcase the talents of our Pacific designers, models, makeup artists and stylists. PACIFIC RUNWAY will play hosts to a prestigious fashion event, with a distinctive touch of the Pacific celebrating a fusion of fashion and providing an exotic explosion of talent.

Lucky for us, the organiser and publicist of PACIFIC RUNWAY – Jannike Seiuli and Dusk Devi (respectively) – spoke to The 5 to 9 Life about all things fashion, the Pacific islands, diversity, events, style and so much more!

Introduce yourself.
Jannike Seiuli of Maori/Samoan Descent. Born in Whangarei, NZ and raised in Sydney Australia. Mother of 2 boys and wife to a very supportive and talented husband, Mona Seiuli.
I have a great passion for events, performing arts and our people which is why I love to create any platform that can promote all. I have an events management business called KND Management and I am the organizer of Pacific Runway.

Dusk Devi – I’m a writer, photographer and publicist, originally from Fiji but I have been an Australian for close to 20 years now (although I went to boarding school here in the 80s, yes I’m old!).
I have a media agency, Dusk Devi Vision, and I am the publicist and lead photographer of Pacific Runway.

What will be the point of difference this year, if any?

JS: We have introduced a kids category in the show and pop-up stalls for businesses to sell their products. Most importantly, we are now a part of the annual Carriageworks program. This is a big deal! It is an endorsement of our purpose and acknowledgement that Australian fashion lovers are ready for Pacific origin fashion.

Why have you chosen Carriageworks and the city of Sydney to host the Pacific Runway event each year?
JS: I was raised in Sydney so this is my home. I started Pacific Runway here in 2012 and wanted to build it up here as there was a need for a creative and fashion platform for and by Pacific Islanders.

Carriageworks is the current home of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, so for us to share the same space as the only other major fashion event is just so exciting! We had the opportunity to take Pacific Runway there in 2015, the first Pacific Fashion show to ever be held in a mainstream Sydney venue, so that was an achievement in itself.

I am so honoured to be able to keep the event there now as a part of the official annual program.
Last year, the models, volunteers, designers, hair and make-up artists, everyone that worked on the event travelled from all over the Pacific to Sydney.

How hard did you have to fight to represent the faces of multi-cultural Australia at Pacific Runway and why was it so important to you?
JS: I didn’t have to fight, it was a foregone conclusion that our models would be representative of multicultural Australia and predominantly Pacific.

The platform that we’ve created at Pacific Runway for Indigenous, Ethnic and predominantly Pacific faces is a statement. It’s a mirror of Australia’s diverse population. We have surprised the Australian eye to what our people are capable of doing. It is very important to me as I want the world to see our talents and strengths.

DD: Pacific people are always underestimated outside of a sporting arena. Despite the Pacific being a source of inspiration for the rest of the world, it is not taken seriously as a viable source of fashion product and industry.

Pacific Runway is a glamourous wake-up call.

What makes Pacific designers unique, compared to designers in Australia or elsewhere?

JS: Pacific Designers have storytelling in their blood. Everything they create tells a story of history and experiences and culture.
Every year as the designers come through they are inspired by a personal story or experience or tales of their land and they express that in their work.

DD: Pacific Island origin designers marry their cultural influences with modern silhouettes and often surprising materials, to create wearable stories. Even if the garment is a slinky velvet number with a lace face veil, there will be an element of ‘Pasifika’ in it, even if it’s just a personal backstory of inspiration.

Which designers should we be taking notice of this year? Do you have any favourites?
JS: We have lots of great emerging & established designers joining us this year and also some of our favourites returning again to showcase. We have a famous Pacific origin designer joining us from the US, his first time presenting in Australia, plus emerging Sydney based designers Styled by Neeks, Tiana Vono, Tori Blú showcasing this year for the first time as well which is exciting.

DD: My standouts are Hefrani by Fijian designer, Aisea Konrote, he is the Roberto Cavalli of the Pacific! Also, Dru Douglas, an NZ based Papua New Guinean designer who uses traditional motifs with organic materials to create almost architectural, conceptual designs.

What does fashion mean to you and how would you describe your personal style?
JS: Fashion is a way to express oneself without words. As for my personal style… haha, I don’t know how to describe it. I’ll let Dusk describe it!

DD: Jannike is a former dancer so there will always be an element of hip-hop in her elegance! She likes tailored pieces in bold colours. Structured but flexible… because Jannike is always ON the move, but also just in case she wants to bust a move!

Fashion to and for me is a map or a mask, it’s your daily story. My style is mood dependent (quirky one day, elegant the next, cowgirl tomorrow, then I may feel like representing my indo-island roots!); colour focused and to theme!

I love layers and ‘tricky’ avant-garde vintage pieces, really digging the 80s prevailing trend, I lived and loved it the first time, still have some pieces from the 80s…and yes I am wearing scrunchies again!

Have you experienced any negativity in your journey so far? How have you learnt to deal with it?
JS: Any story of success will come across hurdles. It isn’t always easy. Yes, I’ve had people who didn’t see my vision and concept of keeping it all Pacific and told me it wouldn’t be recognised here in Australia but here we are now a part of Sydney’s iconic fashion venue Carriageworks and on their official program.

Those words only pushed me to add and promote more Pacific creatives with our event. How I deal with these situations is to ignore the negative comments. I don’t waste time and energy dwelling.
Don’t take things personally, external negativity isn’t always nor mainly about you.
Always stick to your vision of why you started.

Will fashion ever truly embrace diversity?
DD: Fashion IS diversity. The western world has chosen to forget that. This is why events like Pacific Runway are important because if the opportunities are not shared or given, they need to be created.

Annoyingly, Australian fashion industry thinks only one step ahead, they don’t think of the bigger picture nor of the wider reach and certainly not of their global audience and population.
eg. Australia still worships the ground Europe runs on but the power has shifted to China and India. That’s where we should be focusing…and to stay ahead in the industry, Australia should be seeking new ground, like the Pacific.

Diversity is currently ‘trending’ [and] international runways for SS18 have had a pleasing cross-section of colour… but that isn’t really proof of change. Audiences are still predominantly white and the main shows are still in US, UK, Milan and Paris. When Mumbai and Beijing get added to the seasonal calendar, then we’re talking… but here’s hoping it’s a trend that heralds a change and becomes the standard rather than being the ‘new black’… or brown.

Which 5 words would you use to describe the prestigious PACIFIC RUNWAY event?
DD: Eye-opening. Diverse. Catalytic. The Future.

Top tips for making it in events?
JS:
– Create something new that is your own.
– Find a gap where there is a need for your event.
– Research and KNOW and grow your audience 🙂

Much love to Jannike Seiuli and Dusk Devi for taking the time out to chat with us. Make sure you grab a ticket to attend PACIFIC RUNWAY on October 27th. Check out all the details here.