Local Queer Designer Youkhana’s First AAFW Show Championed Emerging Talent & Diverse Bodies

Contributor: Sandy McIntyre

Angels! It’s the beginning of Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, which means looks will be served and quite frankly, no crumbs shall be left. It is a time of year where we’re able to get a glimpse into people’s creativity and personal style. However, mainly, it’s to selfishly peek into the minds of Australia’s most exciting and celebrated designers.

As a nonbinary person, I’ve been curious to see how queer designers will be platformed during the week and the first night did not disappoint.

Youkhana, an incredible label by Gadigal-based queer designer Nathaniel Youkhana, had their Fashion Week debut last night which was appropriately titled “One Of” Couture Collection 2023, as it was exactly that.

There was familiarity with Youkhana’s signature braided fabrications, where he expertly paired strong silhouettes with pieces of personality that each created a “One Of” indulgence. It was one of the most beautiful 10 minutes I’ve witnessed. From the artistry to the colours, to the casting, it was queer excellence. Not going to lie to you, Queers really do know how to put on a show.

Youkhana’s signature braided-fabrications are fkn divine. (Credit: Getty)

They experimented with new shapes and new necklines for their debut runway collection. (Credit: Getty)

Absolutely stunning! (Credit: Getty)

It was just as refreshing as an extra strong mint which, similarly, had my eyes watering due to the sheer joy that I was feeling while witnessing each model glide down the runway with their own unique flair. Each garment was made to perfection and placed on the bodies of, dare I say it: the next gen of fashion.

Youkhana decided early on that he wanted to cast his debut show his way, by putting a call out on social media encouraging models to apply, especially those who have not yet walked in Australian Fashion Week and/or are signed to an agency.

This allowed for diversity in the finest of ways: all shapes, sizes, genders, and ethnicities were celebrated and babes, other designers should take note of this fierce Aussie designer because the atmosphere was electric and received a well-deserved standing ovation.

It’s worth noting that body positive fashion has always been at the forefront of Youkhana’s mind as many of the garments are not sized but fastened together, so their size can be altered. Something you seldom see from other other designers.

Couple that with the diverse range of talent that walked his first runway show and it’s just *chef’s kiss*.

I, myself, did the rounds of castings in the lead up to Australian Fashion Week and although I’m sure the intentions of some designers were positive; I knew as soon as I walked for some that I was more of a pity invite as opposed to a genuine contender. In my opinion, the majority of designers are inviting diversity but are not welcoming it.

Kaitlyn Rainbow (left) Sandy McIntyre (right).

What Youkhana achieved last night was allowing Australians from all backgrounds to see themselves while also championing individuality in its purest and exquisite form which will absolutely get people talking.

Bravo Youkhana, and here’s to hoping the rest of Australian Fashion Week will display this level of diversity.

Sandy McIntyre is a nonbinary model, actor, producer and writer based in Gadigal. You can find them on Insta