SYDNEY — Adelaide couturier Paul Vasileff has been named 2017 Young Australian of the Year.
The award was presented by Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Great Hall at Parliament House, Canberra on Wednesday night, on the eve of Australia Day. Australia’s national day marks the anniversary of the Jan. 26, 1788, arrival of the British First Fleet at Port Jackson, New South Wales.
Vasileff is only the second Australian fashion/beauty industry identity to be recognized by the Australian of the Year Awards, which were founded in 1960 and honor achievement across four categories: Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year and Australia’s Local Hero.
The 26 year-old couturier, who designs under the brand name Paolo Sebastian, launched his label in 2007 while still in high school.
Vasileff today employs 15 people in his Adelaide salon, with 50 percent of his business now international, selling through six international boutiques and to private clients in the U.S., the Middle East and Asia.
Last July, Vasileff took his fall 2016 couture collection to Paris, to show privately during the fall 2016 couture season.
“It’s such an honor” said Vasileff of his award — out of a field of 31 Young Australian of the Year finalists. “I started in Adelaide in my parents’ lounge room and I had these really big dreams about starting a global brand and was told from the get-go, just by people in general, ‘You’re not going to be able to do this, it’s an impossible task.’
“There’s obviously still a very long way to go for myself and for Paolo Sebastian, but I think it shows a lot of young people who if you work hard and you persevere, really anything is possible for you. I really hope that more young Australians choose to follow their dreams, because I think that’s the future of the country.”
Previous Young Australian of the Year alumni include beauty entrepreneur Poppy King (1995), Olympic gold medalists Cathy Freeman (1990) and Ian Thorpe (2000) and tennis star Lleyton Hewitt (2003).
Biomolecular scientist Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim was named 2017 Australian of the Year; indigenous community worker Sister Anne Gardiner was named 2017 Senior Australian of the Year, and cancer fund-raiser Vicki Jellie was named the 2017 Australia’s Local Hero.