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Indigenous fashion star Paul McCann celebrating community and showcasing at Melbourne Fashion Festival

Phoebe Blogg -

Celebrated as one of the fashion world's top-performing First Nations designers, proud Marrithiyal man Paul McCann is renowned for his elegantly luxe, high-end garments.

This month the talented designer made headlines for his impressive showcase at the Melbourne Fashion Festival.

Taking to the Melbourne Fashion Festival's (MFF) Glam Up runway on the 6th March, McCann presented a stunning collection that saw him be the only First Nations designer invited to solo showcase a collection.

"It's always an honour to be asked by MFF to take part in any of the shows they put on. I was actually really nervous this year as I was asked to take my place in the Glam Up runway where I was the only First Nations designer invited to show a collection alongside Australia's most talented couturiers. I would have loved to have had 10 looks but I could only achieve 8... I did the best I could, said McCann.

McCann's collection ventured into a new realm by presenting a collaboration with popular bridal business and brand, Jane Hill Bridal.

Fashion Designer Paul McCann at Paypal Melbourne Fashion Festival wearing his own designs. (Image: Instagram @paul.mccann_art)

"My dear friend Liz reached out to me in October of last year (2023), moving on from her role at J'Aton where Liz was paramount in helping sew the red J'Aton/McCann collaboration gown that closed the Australian Fashion Week First Nations runway show in 2022," said McCann.

"Liz now manages the Melbourne-based Jane Hill location here in Melbourne and she advised me that they had a big selection of deadstock gowns and samples that were filling up their back room, so she asked if I would like to do something with them…I was keen to get my hands on the gowns and ended up with four storage boxes filled with gowns ranging from $4000 to $7000+," he said.

After looking at the deadstock gowns and noticing the potential they retained, McCann was quick to work his magic and create something different, niche and new.

"I was able to re-work the gowns in my own way by adding in black artwork onto the beautiful heavy beaded/sequin lace material with my connection to country design. Hand-making and painting organza flowers and bows and ruffles that adorned the dresses to black them up... luckily this season black and white is really on-trend, it could not have been a more perfect outcome as I still wanted to stay true to the fact that they are wedding dresses with a spin by adding the black," he said.

"At the end of the day I wanted to make Jane Hill proud."

(Image: Lucas Dawson)

First Nations model Em Stenberg on the Calm Up runway wearing Paul McCann X Jane Hill Bridal. (Image: Lucas Dawson)

McCann's designs have not only been featured in the pages of Vogue but walked the runways of Australian and Melbourne Fashion Week. He has also formed a significantly supportive community, including everyone from high-profile celebrities, to industry socialites and prominent influences.

One of those notable supports is friend, media personality and author Brooke Blurton. Having worn McCann's designs on more than one occasion, Blurton embodies McCann's brand ethos of remaining true to who you are.

"Brooke actually reached out to me back in 2022 when she was host of the Uluru Statement From The Heart Gala, then a few months later I asked her if she would like to attend the NGV Gala that same year and we have been friends ever since," he said.

"Brooke has also attended my runways whenever possible, as she is a girl in high demand and I am forever grateful for her love and support."

(Image: Lucas Dawson)

(Image: Lucas Dawson)

McCann is confident that whilst the industry can always do more, it is making steady progress.

"The industry as a whole I feel is doing better and better each year. I'm very grateful to the state of Melbourne especially as they see my value and contribution to the Australian fashion world," he told Style Up.

"It's actually refreshing to be placed in the collective runway shows that better suit my art practice of couture eveningwear. When I first started, I was only asked to be involved in Indigenous runways. But like I said they now have me up against the best in this couture country."

Brooke Blurton in a Paul McCann dress. Image: Nik Sfi.

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