“Jira is the name of my great great grandmother from the Wuthathi Tribe,” says Perina Drummond, founder of Australia’s first Indigenous modelling agency, Jira Models.
“I found there was a gap in the industry. There was no platform to sustain Indigenous models, so I started Jira about 18 months ago.”
Hailing from the island of Mer in the Torres Strait, Perina and her eight siblings grew up surrounded by their grandmothers, aunts and mum sewing, beading and jewellery making. This was where her love for fashion was ignited.
Perina began modelling in Queensland five years ago, before moving to Melbourne to study styling at Australian Style Institute.
Perina has come along way since she discovered her first model, 22-year-old Cassie Puruntatameri on a tram.
“By chance, I discovered Cassie catching a tram home from Queen Vic Markets one Sunday,” she says. “It was a bit daunting approaching her on the tram, but I’m glad I did, she’s doing extremely great.”
Jira facilitates an environment which celebrates and supports aspects of Indigenous culture which may be misunderstood or excluded by a mainstream modelling agency.
“I recruit talent that is not only great in the modelling industry but, also those strongly connected to culture.”
The agency launched at Melbourne Fashion Week earlier this year to a sold-out crowd at federation square.
“The First Born show would have to be the highlight of my career so far. It is my very first runway production,” says Perina.
“It was something that I’ve always dreamt of doing, especially with Indigenous models and designers.”
The show featured exclusively Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander models walking in bare feet, wearing looks by designers from desert country Junjuwa in the Kimberley, to Gapuwiyak in East Arnhem Land.
As well as navigating cultural bias, Perina has faced a number of challenges launching Jira.
“The biggest challenge has been building this business on my own and from scratch. I’ve given up a lot to get to where I am today, ” she says.
Working three jobs to get her business up and running, Perina’s passion for bringing about a more diverse fashion industry is admirable.
“Visiting family and friends in Queensland is a rare opportunity nowadays. Weekends are a thing of the past, and my social life is non-existent.”
“It is something new in the industry, so establishing this business is a risky move,” she says.
“I am forever grateful for the people I have on board to help me for shows and shoots. I think it’s all starting to pay off.”
Written by Kaitlyn Wilson.