In July of this year (2023), Indigenous Fashion Projects (IFP) joined forces with NT Health and Gapuwiyak Arts and Culture Centre to nurture the rapidly growing interest of young people in fashion and modelling within one of the most remote communities in North East Arnhem land; Gapuwiyak, Northern Territory.  


Cover image by Claire Summers.
Over the course of the mentoring pilot, more than 30 young participants engaged in a series of workshops and activities designed to build their confidence to be runway ready, culminating in a professional photoshoot and community-led-runway experience. 


Gapuwiyak Arts and Culture Centre, the School and the Youth Centre played a vital role in the success of the pilot. Throughout our time in the School and Youth Centre, we facilitated discussions and engaged in styling and modelling activities with young participants. 


The mentoring pilot was led by Jira Models Founder Perina Drummond, facilitated by IFP Coordinator Belinda Cook and DAAFF Executive Director Claire Summers. The workshops included a presentation on fashion and modelling pathways to Gapuwiyak school, modelling and photo sessions with high school students, an on-Country photography session, and talks on styling, hair & make up and social media with youth centre groups. 

1) Photos by Claire Summers, 2 & 4) Belinda Cook, 3) Perina Drummond

The week culminated in a remarkable community showcase led by Gapuwiyak Arts and Culture Centre and captured by ABC Backroads. The Gapuwiyak Arts and Culture Centre fashion collection was brought to life by the young community talents who attended the workshops, supported by Elders and experienced community leaders.  One of the standout moments was seeing the participants take centre stage, modelling and presenting with confidence, strength and pride.


The models wore designs not only by Gapuwiyak Arts and Culture Centre but also designs generously provided by Indigenous brands; Clothing the Gaps, Ardi’ol and House of Darwin. A special thank you to all three Indigenous owned fashion labels for letting the young participants shine in the latest collections from leading brands in Melbourne (VIC), Darwin (NT)  and Ardyaloon (WA). 

1-2) Photos by Belinda Cook 3-4) Claire Summers
Two young talents from the mentoring pilot, Roman Mununggurr and Lee Wanapuyngu emerged as standout stars and were supported by the pilot to grace the IFP fashion showcase, Country to Couture, in Darwin last August, marking their second consecutive appearance. They were supported by Leonie Guyula, a fellow young leader in Gapuwiyak, modelling the Gapuwiyak collection for an IFP shoot and taking up the camera herself to capture the major fashion moments. 

1) Photos by Claire Summers, 2-4) Belinda Cook

Their inaugural appearance on the Country to Couture runway in 2022 was a testament to their mettle. Nervous and completely new to the fashion scene, Roman and Lee travelled over 800 kms with Gapuwiyak Arts and Culture Centre to present their community’s woven and hand dyed fashion collection, honouring and reviving the legacy of weaving body adornments from pandanus. The collection won two awards in the 2023 National Indigenous Fashion Awards this year and the experience saw Roman and Lee convinced that modelling and the fashion industry  is where they want to be.

1-2) Roman and Lee walking Country to Couture in August, 2023. Photos by Dylan Buckee

Back in community, the duo are taking the lead in rehearsals,  styling workshops and photoshoots, imparting their wisdom and confidence to their fellow young Gapuwiyak participants. 


In Roman’s words, “My dream job, my dream’s come true”. With the mentorship pilot as their compass, Roman and Lee’s passion for modelling knows no bounds.  Their sights are set on runways in Paris and New York. And Leonie and others are joining them in stepping into the many facets of the fashion world exploring fashion photography and styling.  Gapuwiyak is building a generation of young models ready to take over your fashion week. Keep an eye out for these rising stars — the world hasn’t seen anything yet!

2) Photos by Leonie Bibinyina Bipo Guyula, 3) Claire Summers, 1 & 4) Belinda Cook
This pilot was proudly supported by NT Health and Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation as part of Indigenous Fashion Projects, with guidance and assistance from Gapuwiyak Arts and Culture and Jira Models Founder Perina Drummond. If you’d like to learn more about how YOU can get involved and support remote Indigenous communities like Gapuwiyak on their fashion journey.
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