Born and raised Larrakia country, fashion designer Clair Parker is a Tiwi woman from the Takaringuwi (mullet) skin group. First Nations brand Clair Helen launches new ‘Veins’ collection at Melbourne Fashion Week.
Having grown up surrounded by a family who adore art and all it has to offer just as much as her, Parker’s passion for design and creation is exactly what led her to launch fashion brand, Clair Helen.
Taking to the runway at Tuesday evening’s Gambu Marra runway at The Lume, Parker was thrilled to be featured in Melbourne Fashion Week and launch her brand’s newest ‘Veins’ collection.
Whilst the dates are still to be released when the collection will go live online, Parker shares that Veins will be primarily stocked and available to purchase online.
“My new e-commerce collection called “Veins” will be available online. The dates are still to be released,” said fashion designer Clair Parker.
“I don’t want to give too much away but It’s about the roots of our land and you can really see it through the collection. I have added a few wearable art pieces that are one-offs but the majority you will be able to purchase on my e-store.”
Aside from the excitement surrounding the new collection, Parker was also thrilled to see her cousin and fellow Tiwi Islands woman Cassie Puruntatameri, walk the Melbourne Fashion Week runway.
“My cousin Cassie Puruntatameri – another Tiwi woman – is modelling which is amazing to be working with family again. Cassie modelled one of my first collaborative pieces with Lordanes Spyridon Gogos in 2022 for FNFD FOF it was one of my proudest moments. I was so proud of her professionalism and how experienced she was,” she said.
“It’s great that we are both representing the Tiwi Islands which is why I would love to get more talented artists and models from the Tiwi Islands involved in this space. I am trying to work on ways to generate more funds so that these projects are feasible.”
Speaking on her life and home in the Tiwi Islands, Parker mentions that her passion for fashion did indeed stem from her upbringing.
“I grew up surrounded by my mother and her sisters either basket weaving downstairs or my uncle bringing home his intricate paintings,” she said.
“I always loved art I guess where fashion came into the picture was a time on the islands when I was sitting on my sisters couch. I remember she had just purchased a new TV and cable TV was just brought out then and I would just sit and watch the fashion channel all day. To some it was boring to me it was exciting.”
When discussing the Gambu Marra runway and the opportunity to feature and work alongside multiple other talented First Nations creatives, Parker shares that she is so proud to see and be part of the best Indigenous talent coming from Australia.
“I feel extremely proud and overwhelmed with the talent that I’ve been seeing. It’s been a dream of mine to see not just designers but First Nations people representing internationally,” she said.
“There is still more that can be done in terms of representation like hiring creatives for more permanent roles from photographers, designers and stylists for more projects not just Naidoc week ect, but l think we are here to stay.”
“Now I can start building my cupboard with all my First Nations designer pieces.”
Between moving to Sydney to study, travelling overseas and returning back to Australia to launch the Clair Helen brand, Parker has had a wealth of both business and personal success.
“I moved to the big city of Sydney to study fashion and I’d save up money so I could purchase designer pieces from sample sales which I still have in my personal collection. I graduated from Whitehouse Institute of Design where I was the first Indigenous graduate at my university I went on to intern in New York,” she said.
“Coming back to Australia I would try and search stores where I couldn’t find anything that represented me and my style. That’s when I thought I needed to get this brand off its feet that’s when I started walking to building my brand.
“My biggest highlight was collaborating with Jordan Gogos and Akira Isogawa’s collaboration for the 2023 Afterpay Australian Fashion Week show. It was an iconic collaboration that I will never forget. I am always looking at the Vogue runway app for trend research and the whole collection was in there including my collaborative piece. It was there amongst some of the top designers in the world that I’ve always loved and admired. It was a life-changing moment for me to say the least.
“Then the cherry on the cake was our piece being featured in the Marie Claire cover story.”
With Parker utilising the rest of this year to focus on the brands online store, she said it is also important to note that Claire Helen is a brand that can be worn both on and off the runway.
“Clair Helen was created for that woman who loves to quietly blend in during the week but be loud on the weekend or a special occasion. Clair Helen pieces are for when she wants to dress up and change her mood,” she said.
“It relates to me because I don’t like too much attention going about my everyday life but when it’s a special occasion looking and feeling great. There’s of course those people who love to dress up because everyday is a runway and Clair Helen pieces are for them too.
“I am mainly focusing on my online store and expanding my team but I have few secret projects behind the scenes. I am not sure what the future holds. I am excited for what’s to come.”
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