PNG’s signature design

The bilum dress has become a signature design for Papua New Guinea.

And bilum meri herself, Florence Jaukae Kamel, says interest has rapidly grown since her first ever international runway in New York.

“I’ve got huge orders which I attend to all the time,” she said.

It was a step of faith, turning PNG’s traditional concept of string bag into clothing and changing designs with the fashion trend, while holding on to the basis of string bilum itself.

Last weekend, Kamel showcased the bilum on her second international runway – the Pacific International Runway in Sydney.

This runway is dedicated to designers from the pacific itself to showcase the vast creative talent in store.

Kamel noted other designers coming from pacific island countries where textile and fashion industry are more developed.

But the feedback on bilum, Kamel says, was exceptional. 

Bilums did very well. As soon as the models went on stage, you could hear whispers growing louder till you audibly hear exclamations of admiration,” she said.

But personally as a designer and mother of bilum dresses, her satisfaction comes from knowing how much more the local women will benefit.

The bilum dresses are usually done in collaboration between the fashion house FJK and local women.

“One dress has about two to three weavers. And the commission earned from it goes down to about 15 people in each household put together. So when you look at bilum, you see a downstream line that benefits a whole line of people,” she said.

Bilums interest many because they are very ethnical. And I am glad to have broken barriers to getting bilum out there,” she added.

Pic sourced: Pacific Trade Invest Australia

Gloria Bauai