Mango Rains – Taking the Path Less Travelled

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Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

The Arena night club was dimly lit with an underground vibe at the RAW Brisbane Showcase on Friday night. Nonetheless, vivid prints sparked on the runway in the final fashion show. Mango Rains was responsible for the colour mayhem as they launched their new collection and their first menswear line!

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For the girls, flamboyant cropped tops were paired with flirty mini-skirts or cigarette pants. The boys were bold in printed blazers and matching Bermuda shorts. I first saw the Mango Rains stall lighting up the Young Designer Markets at the beginning of the year, and have been curious to know more about the non-for-profit label ever since.

Carly Shearman and I were lucky enough to go backstage before the show, and meet Virginia Bailey, the founder of Mango Rains.

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Virginia Bailey worked and travelled throughout Africa for almost 2 years. She met countless beautiful and inspirational women. Not only were they fearless fashion print clashers, they had an amazing work ethic and strong family values. They worked incredibly hard every day, to provide their family with food and water, something so simple which we take for granted in Australia.

At the same time, she experienced the poverty first hand. She saw the inadequate education and lack of opportunities available, especially for women. One of the most shocking realisations for her was that Female Genital Mutilation was still the norm. Women would have their daughters circumcised without question. She witnessed a young girl die from infection after her circumcision. Seemingly unshaken, her mother returned to work the next day, and continued with the daily struggle.

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Death is the norm in Africa. Virginia knew she had to make a change.

On her return to Australia, she left her career in mining engineering, to create Mango Rains, fashion with a twist and a conscience! The vision is to give independence and empowerment to women in developing nations.

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The colourful garments are designed and made in Australia, but are made from African wax print fabric. The net profit from every sale is reinvested in educating and training women in developing nations, to help them support themselves and their families.

After selling through numerous markets and their online store, Mango Rains has already raised enough money to start a sewing school in Western Mombasa, Kenya. The school’s is teaching the local women sewing skills and basic business knowledge so they can start their own seamstress business or gain employment as a tailor. Giving these women independence, is giving them freedom.

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And this is only the first Mango Rains project. Mango Rains will also be supporting its other charities 28 too Many, Orphans and Widow Care. Charity will always remain at the heart of Mango Rains, and this is truly reflected in its name. I asked Virginia how she chose the name Mango Rains, and it’s meaning had so much more beauty and symbolism than I could have anticipated.

“In West Africa, during the middle of dry season when everything is almost desert, there are two days of rain. This rain, known as the Mango Rains, ripens all the mango trees, so throughout a desert landscape you can see all the pops of colour from the mangoes. I thought it represented the fabric colours within a city landscape, also it represented hope and prosperity which is what I hope for the brand and the people that it helps.”

🙂

Not many people would choose to give up a flourishing career to start a non-for profit business, aimed at helping people on the other side of the world. For many of us, it is an unfortunate case of out of sight, out of mind. Upon returning to her comfortable home, Virginia Bailey didn’t forget about all the inspirational women she met in Africa who were living a daily struggle. Now, her small act of bravery has created a positive, new direction for countless lives.

For the rest of us, the path less travelled doesn’t seem so scary if we get to wear a loud and festive, suit set along the way.

Caitlin Bennet

QT Fashion Week and Awards

Backstage Pass with Anna Hulm

I arrived at QT Fashion Week and Awards just as the Up and Coming High Tea was beginning. I am lucky enough to work for Anna Hulm, one of Australia’s best emerging designers selected for the runway event. This meant I had a backstage pass to all the action!

After organising the final backstage preparations for the show, we had a champagne toast for our hard work preparing for the show the day before. We were glad that the last minute sewing, de-tagging and sourcing of 15 pairs of shoes for the models was over, and we could sit back and relax.

Miisha Collection opened the runway show once all the guests were settled in the Grand Ballroom. The collection was a perfect mix of lace and leather, creating a luxe futuristic look. There was plenty of lace worked over fitted, sometimes sheer pencil skirts, teamed with sexy bralettes in a bold monochrome colour scheme. Strategically placed peekaboo panel cut outs were combined with perfectly with contoured slim silhouettes painting a desirable illusion. To describe the collection in three words, I would say: sexy, elegant and timeless.

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Next, Anna’s dresses took over the runway. In her collection, bouquet, cherry blossom and abstract paintings by famous artists such as Cezanne, Klimt and Van Gough are printed onto soft silks which drape the body with breathtaking movement and flow.

Working in the store with Anna, I have seen women with different shapes, sizes and complexions instantly feel beautiful and confident when they slip into her silk dresses. Women light up when they wear Anna’s inclusive designs, because simultaneously feeling elegant and comfortable is such a rarity. You could feel the model’s confidence as the luxurious silk dresses billowed freely behind them, while they glided down the runway in their opulent velvet shoes.

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The next collection was Lucid. Magenta and blue colours were swirled through dream like aquatic prints. Bright pink and orange were colour blocked in shift dresses which had a perfect fusion of cocktail and corporate appeal. It was the dream collection for the working girl who knows how to party.

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In the final show, the models transformed into Amazonian soldiers as Mariam Seddiq’s designs hit the runway. The embellishment, soft suiting, bold shoulders and powerful draping stole the show. The collection was edgy yet feminine, and it was so refreshing to see the models look empowered and sexy without being revealing. As Beyonce, Run the World pumped throughout the ballroom her lyrics rung true, “My persuasion can build a nation. Endless power, with our love we can devour.”

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I ran into Mariam backstage after the show and she complemented my leather gloves! I knew they had been a big risk to wear. So when she asked me where I found them, I instantly forgot about all of the mini cupcakes I had left behind on the high tea table due to my lack of grip. I am also one of the only non- superheroes in the modern age that has been quoted saying, “I wish I was getting more wear out of my cape.” So when Mariam swung on her classic, yet futuristic black cape and glided out of the backstage room, my jaw dropped and I really fell in love. Yes, I have started saving for an upgrade to Mariam’s Antoinette Cape!

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Thank you to QT Fashion Week and Awards for choosing four inspiring designers, who all presented an array of creative designs. It is so important that the fashion industry continues to support emerging designers, so that fashion continues to innovate and evolve. These days, so much fashion is at our fingertips. One day you can wear a lace pencil skirt and bralette set, the next, a work of art vibrantly printed onto a silk maxi dress. Aquatic octopus prints to work or a bejewelled cape on Saturday night! The fashion world is your oyster!

Caitlin Bennet