With warm weather the year round and sweltering humidity for a good part of it, Western Australia’s Kimberley region does not, at first glance, lend itself to high fashion.
- The Kimberley in far north WA has a thriving fashion scene
- The region is home to drag queens, models and photographers
- A casual dress sense belies the Kimberley’s “unique” style
Comfort and practicality are more than likely going to be the uniform of choice, whether expressed with shorts and thongs, or jeans and work boots.
But the combination of a thriving creative scene, a long artistic tradition and an undeniably photo-friendly landscape is proving fertile ground for budding fashionistas.
Best of both worlds
Dimas Adiputra has opened up a world of creativity with his drag alter ego Sum Ting Wong, once crowned Queen of the Kimberley.
Mr Adiputra has found a creative sanctuary in Broome, escaping persecution in Indonesia and making a new home in the region.
Dimas Adiputra (left) says his drag persona Sum Ting Wong gives him an extra outlet for fashion and creativity.(Left – ABC Kimberley: Tom Forrest; Right – Supplied: Abbey Murray Photography)
“As a queen, there are more areas for me to explore having fashion as a man on a daily basis,” he said.
“Then when I do shows or gigs, it opens another door to play around with.
Fashion is a way for Mr Adiputra to express himself and show his personality.
“I express myself a lot more vibrantly as a queen, using a lot more colour and being more bold and out there,” Mr Adiputra said.
“Whereas usually I like quite mute colours, plain and nice fits for the body.”
Dimas Adiputra opts for more muted colours when not performing.(ABC Kimberley: Tom Forrest)
From Fitzroy Crossing to a Sydney model
Billie-Jean Hamlett, from Fitzroy Crossing, is modelling for a Sydney agency, and has been seen in high profile campaigns for brands like Country Road and Marie Claire.
Home for Ms Hamlett means some freedom from the pressure of trends and style, and freedom to express herself the way she wants.
“In the Kimberley I wear whatever I want, without the pressure of trying to fit in or dressing to impress. I’m not a fan of following fashion trends, as I think it takes away the freedom of expressing personality.”
Ms Hamlett recently modelled alongside her mother Rosemary Till for a Country Road campaign.
Fitzroy Crossing’s Billie-Jean Hamlett and her mother Rosemary Till appeared in this year’s Country Road Mother’s Day campaign.(Supplied: Country Road)
“I feel extremely proud and honoured to have been given such a wonderful opportunity and to represent my people,” she said.
Her style advice is to keep things simple, and to use clothing as a form of expression.
“Fashion can seem complicated, but I think sticking to the basics, accessorising and experimenting with different colours is essential to great style. Have fun with it.”
It is not the first time fashion has met with Fitzroy Crossing — in 2019, there was a collaboration between five local artists and fashion house Gorman.
A photographer’s paradise
Professional photographer Michael Torres has worked on fashion shoots for more than 20 years.
Inspired by the landscapes and people of the Kimberley, Mr Torres says the region holds plenty to attract those on both sides of the lens.
“It has its own unique fashion, and the beauty of the landscape as well [has] allowed a lot of companies from around the world to photograph their fashion on models,” Mr Torres said.
“It’s definitely a creative hub for fashion.”
Dwesmond Wiggan-Dann modelling for Michael Torres’ Angel Wings project, shot against a Kimberley backdrop.(Supplied: Michael Torres)
Although the Kimberley is a beautiful spot to take photos, Mr Torres says it has its challenges.
“The weather is quite extreme, so you can’t exactly shoot at certain times of the day and certain times of the year,” he said.
“Sometimes locations that are beautiful are quite hard and long to get to, as well as getting permission too can be tricky.”
Mr Torres says the unique landscape is now attracting models and companies from around the world.(Supplied: Michael Torres)
The region works its way into Mr Torres’ entire experience of photography.
“Some of the shoots I’ve done, the fashion aspect comes second, compared to the feeling you have of exploring the Kimberley,” Mr Torres said.