Congolese refugee Nicole Dilubenzi launches fashion label at Echuca-Moama runway event

By Charmayne Allison

CONGOLESE refugee and Echuca resident Nicole Dilubenzi's dreams came true when she held her own fashion runway event at Moama Bowling Club recently.

More than 300 people showed up for the local fashion event which featured 20 of Nicole's stunning original designs from her label Molato.

The event was made possible by the support of numerous community members, as well as St Joseph’s College and Moama Bowling Club (MBC) who joined forces to stage the event.

It aimed to establish a platform for an income stream for Nicole and her family after they were forced to flee their home in Namibia last year.

And with all tickets selling out three days before the event, you couldn't wipe the smile off Nicole's face on the night.

“It was amazing, I felt overwhelmed with happiness,” she said.

“A lot of people came and many said the designs were beautiful and nicely made.”

While the amount of money raised from the night is yet to be calculated, Nicole said she already had several keen customers looking to snap up a Molato original.

“Right now I'm looking through expressions of interest from the night and what I can make for people,” she said.

“This will really be a step forward for my fashion label.”

After sewing furiously for weeks on end to be ready for the runway, it's no wonder Nicole spent the weekend recovering.

“I was so tired. I had to make 20 garments, there was so much preparation,” she admitted.

But the reward for her labour made it all worthwhile.

Especially when she got to call her husband Chicco the next day to share the good news.

Chicco, a Congolese doctor, went missing last year after he was kidnapped and tortured in Namibia.

Finally coming out of hiding in February this year, he made contact with Nicole after nine months of silence which left her fearing the worst.

He is currently in America continuing his medical studies, with plans to eventually join his family in Australia.

“Chicco was really proud of me when I told him about the parade,” Nicole said.

“He was so happy and so supportive.”

Nicole said the event would not have been possible without support from the Echuca-Moama community, particularly St Joseph's, MBC and the Molato committee.

MBC donated $5000 towards the purchase of equipment and materials for Nicole’s designs, and supplied the venue for the fashion parade free of charge.

Meanwhile, the St Joseph’s Year 12 textile class offered to help organise the event as well as add a little of their own style to the show.

This included contributing a number of their own designs to the parade — the first half of the show featured 20 designs by St Joseph’s students, followed by 20 from Nicole.

“I am so blown away by the support I've received,” Nicole said.

“I hope this runway event will be the first of many for Molato.”

If you are interested in contacting Nicole about her designs, email or call 0469 827 621.