In Travel Group’s James Lofts recently sat down with Perina Drummond, Founder of Jira Models.
Perina Drummond, a Torres Strait Islander woman, is by no means just a pretty face. The brains behind the 2017 launch of First Peoples modelling agency, Jira Models, Perina has big plans to influence the fashion industry and provide a platform for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander talent in the modelling world.
Having grown up in the remote community of Thursday Island (Waibene); and a model herself since her teenage years, Perina is very well placed to lead the charge and give the fashion industry a much-needed change.
“I grew up with all the culture and traditions of the Torres Strait Islands,” says Perina.
“And I do go home at least once every year. You’ll find me up on the island walking around barefoot.”
Based in Brisbane before moving to Melbourne about four years ago, Perina started out just modelling for friends and doing it as just a hobby before deciding to pursue it as a career.
“Beyond modelling, I fell in love with the styling of photoshoots and runways,” says Perina.
“The styling and backstage production of fashion. That’s what led me down to Melbourne to pursue a career in the industry.”
After coming to Melbourne to dive deeper into the fashion world, Perina decided that she wanted to have more of her work inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander models. An idea was born.
“It was just my selfishness to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander models that lead me launching Jira Models,” says Perina.
“The agency has been up and running now for about 18 months. I believe we’re the only agency exclusive to First Peoples of Australia. It has been quite successful. We have a few models already signed to the agency here in Melbourne and around the country. Recently, the agency officially launched at the Melbourne Fashion Week for the First Born runway show which showcased Aboriginal designers and/or through collaborative partnerships with remote Aboriginal communities around the country.”
“I’ve been working with a design label out in Fitzroy Crossing in WA. It’s really important, I think, to create opportunities for people from remote communities to come to the ‘big smoke’ of Melbourne and experience this other world outside their own; to model, to showcase their design collections at fashion weeks. I can absolutely relate to the want to explore these opportunities and places that we hear so much about but have never visited before. However, leaving home and your loved ones is a difficult choice you have to make in order to succeed in your career.”
Perina notes that the fashion industry is one of the toughest industries to succeed in, especially modelling. Many agencies continue to recruit Indigenous models, though the cultural knowledge, is lacking from both sides, thus making it difficult to retain Indigenous models in the industry. This has provided the catalyst to make Jira Models a success.
“There are a lot of things I explain to industry professionals and models nowadays that they still don’t understand, or they’ve just heard it for the first time or they’ve never thought about it before. This I believe, has really affected the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait models in the past. I would love to create a stable recruitment platform here in Melbourne, and potentially extend into other parts of the entertainment industry.”
“I really didn’t think the agency would be received so well and grow so fast, exciting times ahead,” says Perina.
“If other people want to follow their dreams, I tell them to just do it. Or at least give it a go. That’s what I tell my models. For some of them, they still find the runway and being in front of a camera a bit daunting. I tell them to try it at least once. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. But just give it a go at