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Entertainment Aboriginal model with vitiligo to debut at London Fashion Week in her mother's designs

10:01  02 august  2020
10:01  02 august  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Budding fashion model Syriah Reid Taylor, who has a condition that varies the pigmentation in her skin, has been plucked from obscurity and will head Wulla Designs was discovered when a London fashion promoter saw a mural painted online. The Pitjantjatjara artists have been commissioned to

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a woman sitting on a bench posing for the camera: Syriah Reid Taylor will model clothes designed by her mother in London. (ABC: Gabriella Marchant) © Provided by ABC Health Syriah Reid Taylor will model clothes designed by her mother in London. (ABC: Gabriella Marchant)

Syriah Reid Taylor, from a regional South Australian town three hours from Adelaide, never expected her dream of being an international model might come true.

Like her idol, fashion model Winnie Harlow, 12-year-old Syriah has vitiligo, a condition that varies the pigmentation of her skin.

After an unlikely series of events, involving a mural her family painted on a roadside pipeline in their home town of Port Augusta, she is on track to make her runway debut at London Pacific Fashion Week next year.

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"I'm excited because I can encourage people who have my skin not to be ashamed," Syriah said.

"I want to encourage a lot of people to be themselves and be happy."

Plucked from country South Australia

Syriah has been plucked out of obscurity because of a 30-metre mural her mum and family painted to celebrate Reconciliation Week earlier this year.

A few months prior Syriah's mother, Candace Swan, and cousins Leah and Jasmine Brown, had decided to turn the artwork they had always made for fun into a business, Wulla Designs.

"We really wanted to do this for our kids, so we could take them places and set them up for the future, for whatever they want to do," Ms Swan said.

They began selling custom canvases, pots and plates on Facebook, but it was an online post of the huge pipeline mural painted by the Pitjantjatjara artists that caught the eye of London fashionista, Ana Lavekau.

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"I woke up one morning and I saw this big, massive, 40-foot pipeline painted [on social media] and I was like 'oh my god'," Ms Lavekau said.

"I literally had to wipe my phone to see if I was looking at the right thing."

'The world is at your feet'

Ms Lavekau launched London Pacific Fashion Week to promote designers from the Pacific in Europe nearly 10 years ago.

"The idea is to push and launch their brands during London Fashion Week," she said.

"The ultimate goal is to have editorial photoshoots and then push those images out to fashion magazines so they can get published."

She said upon seeing the mural, she commissioned a fashion line from Wulla Designs on the spot.

"They were like 'Ana, we're not too sure — we've never done this before', and I was like 'ladies, you just painted a 30-foot pipe over four days in the cold!'" Ms Lavekau said.

"I mean seriously, 'the world is at your feet'."

The designers were encouraged to scout for their own local models to come with them for the show — which is how Ms Swan's daughter came to be involved.

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"With Syriah, I'm proud of her and I want her to succeed in life," Ms Swan said.

"Because with her particular image she can really make a difference in the world and be able to use her modelling to help people, give back."

For Syriah, who had dreamed of being a model, Ms Lavekau said that it was the perfect opportunity to launch a career.

"It's not just there for Pacific Island designers really, it's there for models, it's there for anybody really — so if you feel you want to launch in London, this is your platform," Ms Lavekau said.

Figuring it out

Ms Swan said the news was a surprise for the trio, who had never been overseas.

"I feel a bit scared, but good at the same time, because we can mix with other people from around the world," she said.

"We have to come up with 20 different designs and we want to do dresses, menswear as well."

It will be a steep learning curve for the group.

"We don't even know about graphic design, we're in the process of trying to figure out all of that!" Ms Swan said.

'I'm proud of her'

They will also get the opportunity to share Pitjantjatjara culture during workshops at the prestigious museum Royal Greenwich Museum.

She said she hoped the coronavirus pandemic would allow them, and Syriah, to travel to London in time for the main event in September next year.

The group is fundraising for the trip, and Ms Swan said she hopes her daughter could help change catwalk beauty standards.

"I really want to encourage her and push her to never give up on her dreams," Ms Swan said.

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