Designing his own path

For any budding fashion designer, the annual Melbourne Fashion Festival is a treasure trove of inspiration, new ideas and lessons from industry leaders.

When a rare opportunity arose to become involved in the festival, Josef Lew-Fatt (Year 11) made sure his name was in the mix. 

The opportunity was arranged by Rupert Myer AO (OM 1975), Chair of the Australia Council for the Arts and a member of the School’s Indigenous Programme Steering Committee. Through their connections, Rupert and his wife Annabel secured a role for Josef, hosting the VIP guests of Laura Anderson, Chair of the Melbourne Fashion Festival. “There were a lot of important people – politicians, consul generals, CEOs. It was a little intimidating, trying to remember all the appropriate forms of address – but I loved the experience,” Josef says.

This is the second year Josef has been involved. Alongside his official responsibilities, he has had the chance to rub shoulders with emerging talents and established players within the local and international fashion scene. “The shows are definitely a highlight, especially the national graduate show,” Josef explains. “It brings together fashion students from various universities. The top twelve have a chance to show their pieces. They are ridiculously talented!” He also chatted with visiting designers, including Indonesia’s Peggy Hartanto. “She was wearing a lot of her own designs and they were just amazing. It was great to hear about the ideas behind her designs and about her career so far,” he says.

Originally from Darwin, Josef is studying at Melbourne Grammar School through the Indigenous Programme. Passionate about visual arts and design, Josef is tackling Studio Art this year as part of his VCE, alongside English, Drama, Philosophy, Psychology and General Mathematics.

While it’s a long way from his home and family, Josef has found the environment stimulating and challenging. “The culture here is very studious. It really helps you to join in and get the work done. It’s not competitive, necessarily; but it certainly encourages you to work hard,” he says. “I’ve found the staff here really supportive – they make it easy to be involved in whatever you want to pursue.”

Despite some initial homesickness, Josef has adapted well to life as a boarder in School House. “I hadn’t thought about boarding too much before I put in an application to come here; but my mum went to boarding school in Adelaide, so we’d often discussed it as an option. My sister lives nearby, so it’s been great knowing she’s here,” he adds.

Since its establishment in 2006, the Indigenous Programme at Melbourne Grammar School has evolved and grown. It now provides boarding bursaries for ten young Indigenous men each year. The community has shown its support for the Programme – funds have been raised to create bursaries for two additional boys.

Josef’s experience at the Melbourne Fashion Festival has provided him plenty of inspiration for the future. “I’m definitely interested in studying fashion design. I’ve been speaking to the Careers Department and they’ve given me some great advice. I feel like there are plenty of options,” he says.

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