SYDNEY — Ten days after mingling with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at the state dinner thrown by Fiji’s president in Suva, Fijian Australian fashion entrepreneur Ellen Whippy-Knight was at another black tie gala, this time in Sydney.
Friday’s Bula Ball at the Darling Harbour Dockside venue was the inaugural fund-raiser of Whippy-Knight’s new Fijian Fashion Foundation, which aims to support emerging Fijian designers.
The foundation’s chair, Sydney-based Whippy-Knight is also managing director of the 11-year-old Fiji Fashion Week, an annual Fijian resortwear showcase that is staged in Suva every May.
She is well-acquainted with the limited opportunities facing young designers in a developing country of just 884,000.
Fiji has only one technical school, the Australia-Pacific Technical College, offering basic certificate courses. Established local names such as Robert Kennedy, Hupfeld Hoerder and Samson Lee were either self-taught or had the resources to study in Australia and beyond.
Whippy-Knight hopes to open up opportunities for new names such as 21-year-old Laisiasa Davetawalu, who has applied to study next year at Sydney’s high-profile Fashion Design Studio, whose alumni include Dion Lee, Nicky Zimmermann and Jordan Askill.
Swimwear by Fijian brand Helava at the Bula Ball in Sydney on Nov. 2.
“Some of the funds raised at the Bula