Back for its fourth year at the Sydney Opera House, the Deadly Dressed competition is a unique feature of Australia’s National Indigenous Music, Sport, Arts and Community Awards, aka the Deadlys.
The competition is a forum for individuals to express themselves and represent their communities. It’s colourful, creative and authentic. There are two categories again this year. One is for fashion designers to showcase their work and the other for community members who want to style up and show off their deadly outfit.
In 2012 Kerri’s salt water inspired creation won over more than just the judges, as she soon found out when she was contacted through Facebook by a keen observer who saw it as a perfect wedding dress.
“I won many awards a long time ago and you end up with these dresses in your collection and they don’t do anything except sit in a bag,” Kerri says.
“So to have it used in something like that is such an honour. It makes it all worthwhile that it’s not just something that’s been used once.”
Growing up in Parramatta in Sydney’s West, Kerri developed a passion for fashion at a young age when she would make clothes for her Barbie dolls.
“I left school at 16 and got accepted into the National Art School and did their fashion and design course. The course was four years full time and I was in the industry for about 25 years,” Kerry says.
Following her graduation from the school, Kerri got a foot in the door as a design assistant, before working her way up to head designer with a US based company who designed primarily for Warner Brothers.
“I left that because I decided to have a family, and then I started teaching fashion and fine arts at TAFE and I did that for about 13 years,” she says.
“I retired in 2008 and I’ve been doing community jobs and Aboriginal arts and cultural development in western Sydney for a year.”
Using traditional symbolism, all of Kerri’s designs reflect her country, local stories and the environment she’s been brought up in.
“The dress that I designed last year was called ‘Salt Water Woman’ and it was all about the Wangal people living off the salt water around Sydney, the water holes and pools,” she says.
“I used a lot of fresh water pearls, abalone shells, tiny little mariner shells and all that.
“The print design was based on a salt water design that I worked out and printed onto the silk but the back was beaded with all these tiny little abalone shells in the shape of concentric circles, made to look like waterholes.”
The intricate dress took the equivalent time of a full week to create, and Kerry looks forward to doing it again this year.
“I always have gone to the Deadlys every year just to watch it and I’m really proud to celebrate our people and our achievements as a community,” she says.
“My friends kept saying ‘you really need to enter’ and kept harassing me until I did. I was stoked. It was totally Deadly.”
Entries for Deadly Dressed are still open, but close at 5pm Monday 26 August, 2013. You can find out more or download an entry form here.