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James Parr on winning GQ Man of the Year, returning to Melbourne Fashion Festival and striving for greater Indigenous representation

Phoebe Blogg -

From taking out GQ's Man of the Year award to winning Australia's Disability Leadership Social Impact Award, James Parr is thriving in all areas of his career.

Whether he is walking the runway, appearing in editorials or engaging with the community, Parr is striving to reinforce to today's generation that no matter your background, physical appearance or ability, you are capable of reaching and achieving your goals.

Succeeding as a renowned triathlete, disability advocate and proud, queer Wiradjuri man, the past 12 months have seen parr feature in several magazines, podcast interviews, digital articles and more.

After catching up with Parr amidst the chaos of PayPal's Melbourne Fashion Festival, the talented model shared that it has been a busy yet exciting start to 2024, with lots of projects ending while others are kicking off.

Whilst he does enjoy the fast-paced logistics that a modelling career entails, Parr is hoping to create a better work/life balance, to ensure he neither burns out nor underperforms.

"I feel like 2024 has started very rapidly for me, I am working full-time modelling which is great and I am very fortunate that I am able to do that- although I sort of don't have time for anything else," he said.

"Last year, I really focussed on working and building my career so while this year seems like it is very full on and fast-paced, I am ensuring this year I get to create a good work/life balance."

James Parr wearing M.J Bale on the runway at Melbourne Fashion Festival. (Image: Lucas Dawson)

When discussing what it feels like to be walking in his – current – hometown of Melbourne and participating in the Melbourne Fashion Festival (MFF), Parr said he is excited to be walking in numerous shows and relaxing afterwards by returning to country and visiting family.

"I am walking in National Graduate Showcase, Suit Up, Urban Oasis and Block party (closing show)," he said.

"I live in Melbourne, so after MFF and having such a big couple of months, I am taking some time off to go back to country.

"So I plan on going to Wiradjuri country where my mob is from and seeing family and just sort of resetting on country and taking a week to reset and feel refreshed.

"Getting back and spending time on Wiradjuri country always enables me to feel refreshed and reset."

James Parr at Melbourne Fashion Festival wearing Lina You. (Image: Lucas Dawson)

When discussing how it feels to have won so many awards and accolades, Parr said he is always still shocked with gratitude, further explaining that sometimes he does find himself in disbelief that it is real and he is succeeding in numerous creative niches.

"In a way, it doesn't sort of feel real to receive awards or be recognised for the work that you are doing, but I am so grateful and probably still shocked that it has," he said.

"Even though it was an award presented to me, for me these awards are more dedicated to the minorities that I try and advocate for and provide representation for.

"My whole career was to create change and provide more representation and use my voice, so it is great that is being recognised and showcased and the message is also seen as important as it is to me to other people giving out these awards and having that message and why I do what I do be showcased, because that is what creates change."

James backstage at Melbourne Fashion Festival's National Graduate showcase. (Image: Dan Castano)

With his current role seeing his work as an influential fashion figure and inspiring disability advocate, Parr is conscious of the level of representation across the broader creative industry and its gradual shift towards a more positive and acceptable level of change.

"I think it is still slowly getting better. I feel like there are times where it is great and there is a lot of representation and then there are times where the representation is less," he said.

"I feel like Indigenous models, designers, creatives, makeup artists have to do a lot more work to be included or work in the space amongst everyone, which is hard and can feel exhausting, but for me, I also think that that is important to keep pushing so that the next generation is just included and hopefully don't have lesser representation.

"It is really great to see a lot of Independent runways where mob are showcased from behind the scenes, the designers and the models but what I really hope for is that this is just across the board.

"In saying that, I recognise how important it is to have our own shows because, to us mob, it's not just fashion it is also showcasing our culture and bringing mob together."

James Parr attending Melbourne Fashion Festival. (Image: Instagram: @ariak)

Speaking on greater representation, Parr also notes that Indigenous male representation – especially in the fashion industry – certainly needs to continually improve.

"I think it is very slowly improving, although and there are times where I think it has improved, although it just isn't consistent in ensuring that Indigenous male models are included across these (fashion/runway) events," he said.

"We still have a long way to go and there are so many Indigenous male models out there to pick from which I am very grateful for those models who are paving the path for the next generation and continually showing up, but there is still space to improve this."

With a steady series of successful projects and accolades, Parr has secured himself as the man of the moment.

Across his work in both the fashion and disability sector, the proud Wiradjuri man has remained grounded and committed to keeping his community and culture front of mind.

"There are a few exciting things in the pipeline that I have been working on and am so excited for - so watch this space," Parr told Style Up.

We can't wait to see what he does and creates next.

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