Growing up in a household of eight children in the Torres Strait, Perina Drummond fell in love with fashion.
“We had trunks of fabric that my siblings and I used to play with. If we needed a new curtain, we’d make it out of these fabrics instead of going to the shops’’, Perina said.
“My great grandma had an old Singer sewing machine I used to play on, and I used to watch all the women in my community weave, crochet and do embroidery, or beading, and join in as well.
“So, fashion has always been a part of me.”
Perina went to boarding school in Brisbane and started modelling after she finished her education. She moved to Melbourne in 2015 and began her career as a Stylist, volunteering backstage at the Fashion Weeks.
Whilst developing her portfolio as a Stylist, she noted the lack of indigenous models in the industry. This led to her establishing Jira Models in 2017 to help young people get involved in the Australian fashion industry and promote Indigenous employment.
In 2018 Jira Models officially launched via a sold-out runway show at Melbourne Fashion Week.
“Participation in Melbourne Fashion Week really opened up a conversation within the industry about Indigenous fashion in general, whether it was designers, models, or any other creatives we have in the industry,” she said.
Perina is now working with the Australian Fashion Council and a team of Indigenous creatives on Indigenous fashion in the industry.
“It is still in the early stages of conversation where they’ve been quite honest that they’ve never done anything like this before,” she said.
“It’s great they’ve just started their learning experience and are really trying to build the industry going forward to be more inclusive.”
At present the bulk of Perina’s business comes from the fashion hubs of Melbourne and Sydney, but model inquiries are flooding in from across Australia. Jira Models’ debut in Melbourne featured Indigenous models from as far afield as the Kimberley and East Arnhem Land.
Perina said Jira Models provides a cultural safety net which was a key factor in successful retention for Indigenous employment.
“Having that knowledge of walking in two worlds has been very vital for my business’s success,” she said.
“I understand the steps and processes involved in successfully engaging with community.”
With her business growing at a rapid rate, an advertisement on LinkedIn for Generation One’s inaugural Dream Summit caught her eye.
“I am a stubborn person and a proud one, and I tend to do everything by myself,” she said.
“But I’ve reached the point in my business where it is growing at a rate that I’ve never expected it to.
“I’m currently dealing with things I projected in year five, and I’m only in year three of the business.
“Dream Summit provided an opportunity for support and so I applied, hoping for the best.”
Out of more than 80 of Australia’s most talented Indigenous entrepreneurs, Perina was awarded second prize by the Dream Summit advisory judges – $10,000 in seed funding.
“It’s been really exciting, and it’s taken a lot of weight off my shoulders. I can breathe again,” she said.
“I am currently the sole operator so this money means I can employ a couple more people to help and map out the different areas of the industry and the growing network around Australia.”
Dream Summit also introduced Perina to a network of like-minded people who are operating in the “same head space and time frame”.
“It was one of the better summits I’ve been to – people weren’t just talking the talk,” she said.
“They had all these amazing speakers, but they were relatable and gave good, solid advice.
“I feel so inspired knowing that there are other businesses out there and entrepreneurs that are doing such amazing work.”