Louise MACKAY – NEWCASTLE, Australia – Founder and Director of NEWCASTLE FASHION WEEK.

Louise Mackay is a beautiful young woman, driven and passionate whose extraordinary journey is inextricably connected to the sorrow and pain of being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 18. Cancer has the effect of chopping a life in two, creating a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ which take years to reconnect. From before the cancer, Louise takes her enduring passion for fashion. As a child, she had shoes specially delivered from Sydney to her small country town because no other pair would do. She also had a deep desire to help others through awareness, dialogue and understanding. Louise wanted to be a journalist and write about issues faced by young women. As she became one of these women, dealing with much more than anyone should have to, and through the turmoil of the treatment, she “found a cause” and a way to reconnect the disjointed parts of her life. By combining Fashion with her committment to “kicking cancer’s butt”, Louise founded Newcastle Fashion Week, starting in a few days, celebrating its third year. NFW promotes the work and talent of young emerging fashion designers whilst being an official fundraiser for the Cancer Council of NSW. It is an honor to be involved and lend my support through Aloud. to Newcastle Fashion Week and to Louise whose strength and determination are an inspiration to us all. 

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A selection of photos from past Newcastle Fashion Week events.

ALOUD: Louise, would you like to start by introducing yourself and where your interest for Fashion comes from?

LOUISE MACKAY: I am the director and founder of Newcastle Fashion Week. I have been interested in Fashion since I was a little girl and fashion creation is something that was part of my upbringing. My grandmother was a dressmaker for a high-end tailoring company. Since, I can remember, we have had sewing machines in our house and tons of fabric to play with so fashion has been a passion of mine for a long time. 

ALOUD: One of the aims of Newcastle Fashion Week is to promote local emerging designers. What are some of the challenges young designers face?

LOUISE: From any perspective, trying to launch yourself into a career is difficult and as an emerging fashion designer, breaking into such a competitive market is very challenging. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for exposure and Newcastle Fashion Week is really there to help them establish a name and a brand. Not only is it a platform for exposure, it is also a fairly affordable one compared to some of the bigger shows around the country which tend to become prohibitive for emerging designers. 

ALOUD: Newcastle Fashion Week is first and foremost a charity which raises funds for the Cancer Council of NSW. Would you like to talk about why this touches you so personally and how you have used your experience to help others who are touched by Cancer?

LOUISE: When I was 18 years old, I was diagnosed with Leukemia. I had just finished High School and was really enjoying life, partying, having a boyfriend and all of sudden, I was at the Mater Hospital in Newcastle for 3 months getting intensive chemotherapy followed by 3 years of treatment. What I experienced through that diagnosis was a mixture of things from the isolation that cancer patients go through, the pain, the emotional heartache, the mental problems and knowing people who have passed away from cancer. Through these fundraisers, I have been able to give reasons for why I had cancer. To me, it means that I survived so that I could help others so no one else loses their life to cancer. Through Fashion Week, I want to ensure that the messages of the Cancer Council are heard, through the fundraising as well as the prevention. I think that young men and women need to listen to the risks they expose themselves to because cancer doesn’t discriminate. 

ALOUD: Would you like to run us through the events that will make up NFW?

LOUISE: The launch event is a gala cocktail function which all of our VIP sponsors will be attending. It’s a yellow event coinciding with Daffodil Day, a major Cancer Council fundraiser. We are having a full show of yellow and garments designed on the basis of hope by some of Australia’s top Fashion Designers (Jayson Brunsdon, Camilla, Rachel Gilbert…) along with some of our local designers. On Friday and Saturday will be our runway shows held at the yacht club where we will be showcasing collections by our local designers (Jzhonnie Bechet, Little Sparrow, Miss Fancypants, Velvet Hummingbird and more). We encourage everyone to get tickets while they are still available and join us to “Cure Cancer in Style”. 

ALOUD: How do you hope NFW will keep developing in the next few years?

LOUISE: Hopefully, we will get even more community support. I would love Newcastle to embrace NFW as one of its prestigious and recognized events. I think fashion needs to be listened to a little bit more and recognized as something that isn’t superficial. 

ALOUD: How do you imagine the next few years for yourself?

LOUISE:  I am at a point where everything in my life is starting to fall into place. I have a great job as the Community Relations Coordinator at the NSW Cancer Council. I am slowly getting through the fatigue and the post-emotional problems I had from the treatment so I guess I want to establish myself as a person and as a professional. I want to propel myself into the industry and take everyone with me. NFW isn’t about me. It’s about my committee, the models, the photographers, the designers, the hair and make-up artists. I want to keep creating opportunities for young men and women to think outside the square and to encourage people to take that leap of faith and keep going with it. 

ALOUD: 6 years on, things are looking pretty good. What would you tell yourself at that moment when things were probably looking rather gloomy and you just had the beginnings of an idea? 

LOUISE: I’m not going to lie, I have wanted to quit many times but what is in the back of my mind and keeps me going is that there are much bigger risks than putting on a fashion show. I was talking to a young boy whose friend has brain cancer and he is taking risks everyday, playing with new therapies and treatments, to ensure that he stays alive. This, what I am doing, isn’t hard. It can get stressful but I can work through it. That’s one thing I learned about cancer is that most things can be solved and if you can’t, you have great people around you to help you. That goes with everything in life. I think a lot of people who will read this interview are still quite young and probably haven’t been through those experiences but the only thing I can tell them is not to give up. I know, it’s so cliche but it’s true. I am an ordinary person doing an ordinary thing that has turned extraordinary.

Newcastle Fashion Week will take place 22-27th August as an Official Fundraiser for Cancer Council NSW’s Daffodil Day. Help us paint the town yellow and support local designers by buying a ticket here. The tickets are only $20 so if you are in Newcastle, you really have no excuse to miss out on what will be a fantastic event!

If you or someone you know is using Design as a tool to help others through community based initiatives, I would love to hear from you and help you get the word out there. Email me at contactaloud(at)gmail.com. 

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  1. Jane

    It is impressive to read of Louise’s endeavor and to see how many people she has inspired to follow her lead. How wonderful it is to do what one loves knowing one is also helping others.

    Often it does take a terrible personal experience to trigger action for a specific cause but we must always remember that these things don’t always just happen to “other people” and that these “other people” along with many causes need our compassion and contribution.

    The Newcastle Fashion Week event should not only help to further define fashion as a true art form but also draw people of all ages into a worthwhile means of supporting scientific research for cancer cures.

  2. Pingback: NFW 2011 – Part 1 – Behind the Scenes. | Aloud.

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