Uralla student’s design puts fashion world in a spin

In her first-ever competition, a Year 10 student has taken out a national design award. Kristi Pritchard-Owens reports.

A group of five women looking at the camera with a model wearing a designer outfit in the middle
Image: This will make a good yarn: Dechen Kandro, holding flowers, and her teacher Jo-Anne Barr, far left, at the awards ceremony with a model wearing her winning outfit.

Meet Australian fashion’s impressive future, softly spoken Uralla Central School student Dechen Kandro.

In the 2022 Fleece to Fashion Awards, Dechen’s 1920s Chanel-themed ensemble not only took out the Secondary School category; it also won the overall prize, the MJ Bale Supreme Award.

“Disbelief. It was disbelief when they called my name,” the Year 10 student said of her success in her first fashion competition.

Fleece to Fashion board director Liz Foster said the judges were “blown away” be Dechen’s head to toe outfit.

The Uralla Central School student wasn’t even a teenager when she came up with her award-winning design: a pantsuit, cape and cloche hat made from merino wool.

“I think because I designed it when I was so young, I designed it when I was 12, I think it helped me to figure out how to approach such an important event,” Dechen said.

Dechen’s aptitude for clothing design has already been recognised by her school, where she’s been accelerated in the subject.

While she does her other subjects with her Year 10 peers, she’s undertaking HSC Textiles & Design through a compressed curriculum.

This allows her and her creative classmates to tackle the two-year course in one, at a school that doesn’t historically teach the subject through to Year 12.

“She’s very, very committed to what she does, she has a very good eye for detail,” Textiles and Design teacher Jo-Anne Barr said.

Having a practising milliner as a teacher proved particularly helpful for advice, as Dechen drew on Ms Barr’s advice to create her first-ever hat to complete the Chanel-esque ensemble.

Fleece to Fashion, which attracts entries nationally, celebrates Australian merino wool production.

The awards, which were held at Deeargee Station near Uralla, gave Dechen the opportunity to mingle with some of the best-known names in the fashion industry including designers Akira Isogawa and Jonathan Ward.

Industry mainstay Melissa Hoyer also took part in a Q&A with regional students, including Dechen.

“I think it shows that they care and they’re genuine. They care about young people who want to design no matter where they are,” Dechen said.

Her success has inspired Dechen to embrace her creativity as a possible career.

“This has definitely given me a confidence boost. I would like to study costume design. I think that’s where my true passions lie, in theatre and film,” Dechen said.


A model wearing a light pink cape and white pantsuit and a matching pink cloche hat
Image: Hat's a winner: Dechen Kandro's winning design on parade.
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