Australian Fashion Foundation 2019 Scholarship Award winners (left and right) Amanda Nichols and Helena Dong, with models wearing looks from their collections.

SYDNEY – Two recent graduates of Melbourne’s RMIT University are the winners of the Australian Fashion Foundation’s 2019 scholarship awards.

Helena Dong and Amanda Nichols will each receive a financial grant of $20,000 and assistance securing a six-month internship at a global fashion house headquartered in Europe or the U.S.

The judging panel included designer Nicky Zimmermann, stylist Brana Wolf, Vogue Australia editor in chief Edwina McCann, Harper’s Bazaar Australia editor in chief Eugenie Kelly and consultant David Bush.

Dong had submitted her interdisciplinary graduate collection, comprised of a capsule collection of traditional wool suiting and shirting, together with an online digital game and a performance piece.

Master’s graduate Nichols – who, at 35, is considerably older than the usual AUSFF applicants – is a professional costumer who has worked with film duo Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin for 14 years. “It [the award] is really important for me, because it means that I’m able to transition out of costumes into fashion” she said.

The foundation was launched in 2009 by two New York-based Australians – publicist Malcolm Carfrae and VFiles founder Julie Anne Quay – to help young Australian fashion creators gain international experience.

Previous winners include Vlad Kanevsky (2015), who is now an associate designer at Thom Browne; Alexander Oscar Kelvy (2014), who works as a men’s footwear designer at Louis Vuitton; and Georgia Lazzaro (2009), previously a designer at Calvin Klein and Narciso Rodriguez and the former design director at Protagonist, now working as a creative and design consultant.

Carfrae said the biggest change he has witnessed in AUSFF applicants over the past decade is their newfound marketing savvy.

“So many of them have the most incredible folios” he said.  “They have websites, Instagram, video portfolios, they do their own logos, graphic design. Several of the designers today had handed the judges magazines they had produced. It’s just extraordinary to see how they are like already mini brands and they are still at university”.