By Luke Voogt
Bell Park designer Ali Rauf narrowly missed top place at the Melbourne Cup in a prestigious, invite-only fashion competition last week.
Ali’s equine-themed outfit beat more than 100 entries from across Australia to place second in the Fashions on the Field Design Award.
“It was an absolute surprise,” he told the Indy.
Highton model Alex Hecker wore the outfit, which featured 3D horses complete with clips and ropes for the reins and bridle.
“I thought it was a really fun way to tie fashions on the field in with the actual reason the public gather for this occasion,” Ali said.
“It’s a cheeky update on classic racewear with the traditional peplum and pencil skirt silhouette, reminiscent of the works of Dior and Chanel.“
Alex, who regularly models for designers at the Cup, cautioned Ali not to get his hopes up.
“She’s been doing it for six or seven years,” he said. “To be honest we were really happy just to be showcasing.”
So Ali was shocked when his entry beat eight of the 10 finalists in the prestigious competition.
The Saudi-born fashionista’s love of horses inspired the unique outfit.
He had painted the “majestic and powerful” creatures since he was a child, he said.
“My first ever proper painting was a horse. I’ve just been obsessed with them.”
Ali and business partner Luke Perkins spent a month creating the dress and hand-embroidering the shoulder pieces.
“At the start it was too plain – it was just two white horses,” he said.
But even after he added the bridle and reins it still sometimes took people a while to remark “Ah, they’re horses”, he said.
Ali spent another fortnight on the feathered headpiece, which featured two ceramic horses.
“People either go for a very extravagant headpiece and the outfit is simple, or the other way around,” he said.
“But we wanted to do an outfit where you couldn’t tell which one was louder.”
The Melbourne Cup introduced the designer-only award as they preferred entrants in the main event to select their own outfits, he explained.
Ali spoke to the Indy’s sister publication, the Geelong Coast Magazine, earlier this year about his upbringing and fashion inspiration.
He moved to Pakistan with his family when he was young and his father’s army career saw him travel the world.
Ali studied in the US after high school, before earning a scholarship to Deakin and moving to Geelong to study architecture eight years ago.
He launched his Bird Skin fashion label three years ago and had won several times at the Fashion Awards Australia since.
More recently he was one of two Australians to make the final 32 of a fashion competition for the 250th anniversary of UK embroidery brand Hand and Lock.
He came runner-up in the competition’s fashion hand embroidery category.
Ali looked forward to “maybe relaxing a little bit” after a hectic few years.
“We’re gearing up to get our next collection out for next year because (it’s been) so chaotic.”