Fashion infused with courage, belief and true grit

Nikki Hind, of Albury, is Australia’s only legally blind fashion designer.

Garments from the first collection by Australia’s only legally blind fashion designer will grace the catwalk in the 2018 Henty Natural Fibre Fashion Awards.

Nikki Hind, of Albury, has produced her collection “see me’’, which teams silk and denim into light, simple, effortlessly chic dresses, tops and jumpsuits.

The collection will be paraded at 11.30am on Tuesday, September 18 and 2.15pm on Wednesday, September 19 at Country Lifestyle.

Nikki founded her design business, Blind Grit, after being left permanently legally blind by a stroke.

She had previously worked in public relations, communications and event management for Australian Red Cross and Red Cross Blood Service in Brisbane and Darwin.

This year, Nikki has teamed with the Disability Leadership Institute, Australia’s first cohesive ongoing program to support and develop leaders and emerging leaders with disabilities.

It is the first organisation of its kind globally, run by and for disability leaders.

On September 1, she will be part of a panel at Melbourne Fashion Week, discussing the topic “Access to Fashion’’, showcasing some of her collection on the runway and exploring genuine inclusion of people with disabilities within the fashion industry.

“I became legally blind at the same time as I had my first child at 34 due to a blood clotting disorder,’’ Nikki said.

“I have no peripheral vision or depth perception at all but it is incredible what your brain fills in for you – I can use a sewing machine well, albeit very slowly.

“One of the big things being visually impaired is it is unbelievably fatiguing because you are constantly trying to focus.’’

The mother of two uses neither a white cane nor a guide dog.

“Growing up, fashion design was always the happy place in my head and I especially enjoyed the Golden Gown Awards broadcast on TV,’’ Nikki said.

“I thought fashion design was an unpractical career to pursue however when I moved to Wagga at 22, and found that was the city where the Golden Gowns had been held.’’

Suddenly, Nikki found herself strapped into high heels and modelling a $10,000 designer gown on the catwalk at the Golden Gown Awards

“The capital cities have a stranglehold on the world of fashion so it was a real shame when the Golden Gown Awards finished (in the early 2000s),’’ she said.

“Henty supports rural and regional designers through the Natural Fibre Fashion Awards, and that is really important.

“The collection I am bringing to Henty is unprocessed denim and Vietnamese silk, which has been woven on looms hundreds of years old.

“Silk and denim are opposites in the way they drape, feel, look and wash.

“It was a metaphor for how I was approaching life at the time.’’

Nikki experienced a series of traumatic events in 2015 and had set herself the goal of creating a fashion collection for the Prix de marie claire awards that year.

“I aimed to role model the things I wanted my boys to learn in life and be, so I gave it my best shot,’’ she said.

“The marie claire PR manager called me when she received my entry and said the fashion component was only held every second year, and that year wasn’t one of them.

“Rather than binning it, she sent it to the chief editor.

“It was a vote of confidence in using fashion as a platform to communicate something that I feel is of social importance.

“That was the seeds of my business Blind Grit.’’

Nikki received an ING Dreamstarter scholarship, developed for start-up businesses with sustainable social and financial outcomes.

As part of the social engagaement stage of developing Blind Grit, she worked at Albury TAFE and Wodonga Senior Secondary College with people who had survived a refugee experience.

“I love clothing that stands out in a subtle, classic way with an unusual twist to catch the eye,’’ she said.

“All the silk and denim dresses are reversible, going from a walk on the beach to a cocktail party.

“Blind Grit has since evolved into inspirational athleisure wear created by those who have conquered challenges for those who are ready for one.

“I just want to celebrate and highlight the incredible qualities that sit alongside the scars, and give Blind Grit customers the ability to borrow some of that grit every time they put on their Blind Grit athleisure wear.

“The garments will be mostly made out of the ecologically friendly fibre, bamboo – it has anti-bacterial qualities, odour resistance and a beautiful feel.

“It’s good to be able to promote fashion from an Australian rural social entrepreneur with a disability – I’m proud of that.

“I hope that will be inspiring on the catwalk at Henty to other people.’’