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Cult jewellery brand Cleopatra’s Bling teamed up with Sisterworks to create an inclusive runway for VAMFF

Photography by Madeline Bishop

Words by Jasmine Wallis

Making fashion feel good. 

On the rainy opening night of the 2020 Virgin Australia Fashion Festival, fashion goers trickled into the Industrial School at the Abbotsford Convent. 

From the start, the production from Olivia Cummings’ jewellery label, Cleopatra’s Bling, didn’t feel like a “traditional” fashion week show.

Stalls in the room sold reusable bread bags, jars of local pickled food, and handcrafted earrings. Melbourne-based artist Muhubo Sulieman from Qaymi Arts and Crafts sold colourful purses and bags, inspired by her Somali background. 

Disco tunes from local Turkish DJ Baba Noir echoed around the hall as models of all sizes waved, smiled, and even danced down the makeshift runway. 

Cleopatra’s Bling jewellery adorned the models who, rather than being styled in high fashion designer outfits, wore clothes from Olivia’s own wardrobe or items borrowed from independent Australian labels. 

Items featured in the show highlighted the delicate detailing the label has become known for, with a necklace draped in golden feathers, pearls dripping from models’ necks and Turkish-inspired jewels referencing Olivia’s five-year apprenticeship in Istanbul.

In her closing speech, Olivia said she created the event to “celebrate togetherness and inclusivity… something that made you go home feeling really positive.” 

And it did. 

The whole event was a journey around the globe by way of Olivia’s travels and creativity, and felt like a collaborative community effort. 

All profits from the night were donated to Sisterworks, a charity close to Olivia’s heart. Sisterworks is a not-for-profit social enterprise supporting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers by developing their confidence and empowering them through work. 

“Most of the women who work with Cleopatra’s Bling have carved out their own path and I really believe that that is the way to equality. I think simply if a woman has a job, if that’s her choice, then that’s the way she can feel empowered,” said Olivia after the show. 

From design to marketing, Olivia’s holistic approach to business shows an appreciation for her local community without getting wrapped up in the world of high fashion. 

“My favourite part of [running the label] is the back end. I love working with the people and artisans, so I think what has kept me in the business is the creative side of it and the community creation.”

Rather than feeling overwhelmed or pressured to keep up with the latest trends – which often happens after a fashion event – the audience left the Cleopatra’s Bling independent runway feeling connected to something – connected to a community, as allies of the women supported by the Sisterworks charity. 

As International Women’s Day falls behind us and brands are quick to commercialise and capitalise on feminism, it’s refreshing to see a label creating beautiful items while actually putting in the work to help the women and communities around them. 

cleopatrasbling.com.au
sisterworks.org.au

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