13 May 2024

Bright young Wollongong designer selected to star on Australia's ultimate fashion runway

| Jen White
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Renee Henderson

Renee Henderson is preparing for her first Australian Fashion Week show. Photo: Jez Smith @jezsmithphotography.

Wollongong’s Renee Henderson only graduated as a fashion designer late last year, but her Indigenous-inspired collection is about to go on show at the prestigious Australian Fashion Week.

Renee will feature on the runway in Sydney at The Innovators show on Tuesday (14 May), alongside some of the industry’s biggest names.

The 24-year-old designer has already established herself and her label, Lychee Alkira, after being invited to participate in the Melbourne Fashion Festival’s Mob in Fashion runway show earlier this year.

She hopes to officially launch her label, Lychee Alkira, once Fashion Week concludes. She chose the name for her love of lychees in all forms and alkira, which means bright and sunny.

“I just thought that was very fitting in my collection because it’s very bright colours, very happy and sunny,” she said in a break between fitting models for the show.

Her designs are influenced by Aboriginal art and storytelling through rich prints and sleek lines that honour and celebrate the oldest living culture.

“My great grandma was a seamstress, so fashion design runs in my blood,” Renee said.

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The former Mt Ousley Public and Keira High School student started studying business at the University of Wollongong but found her true passion when she took short courses at TAFE NSW’s Fashion Design Studio during her university break.

She flicked finance for fashion and hasn’t looked back, graduating with a Bachelor of Fashion Design last year.

“Instrumental to my success has been the industry exposure and connections I’ve made,” she said.

“Mob In Fashion, a creative agency, offered me a place on their runway for emerging designers at the Melbourne Fashion Festival shortly after I invited them to see my collection at TAFE NSW’s graduate runway show in November 2023.

“It’s been an incredible experience and it’s amazing to now be showing at Australian Fashion Week.”

Renee is one of four graduates from TAFE’s Fashion Design Studio who was selected to be part of The Innovators show at Fashion Week.

The Fashion Design Studio alums include well-known designers Dion Lee, Zimmermann and Akira.

Head Teacher Andrea Cainero has taught at the Design Studio for 20 years and commended Renee for her creativity, innovation and commitment.

“The TAFE NSW Fashion Design Studio team is thrilled Renee’s label Lychee Alkira is already gaining exposure and recognition,” Andrea said.

“We’re focused on equipping students with the hands-on practical training they’ll need in a fashion industry focused on sustainability and digitalisation.

“Renee is a wonderful example of this as she skilfully blends traditional Indigenous techniques with cutting-edge production methods to create stunning designs inspired by Aboriginal art and culture.”

Renee reached out to Victorian-based Gunditjmara artist Bayley Mifsud last year to ask if she would be interested in working together on a collection.

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“It was really nice to connect with a fellow Aboriginal creative who’s just entering the industry and has different experiences to me,” she said.

“Working with like-minded artists in this space is rewarding.”

Between preparing for Fashion Week and working part-time at Coledale’s Earth Walker cafe, Renee hasn’t had much time to think about what’s next.

“I’d love for the brand I have now to be up and running fully and have that as my full-time job.

“Obviously, starting your brand takes a long time and a lot of hard work, but that’s definitely the long-term goal.”

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