Chadwick's Fiona Thomas Seneviratne was born to stand out
Fiona Thomas, the Western Australian Fashion Awards winner of the STM People’s choice Model of the year, is no stranger to the expectations of an Asian family. She states, “coming from an Asian background, to my family having an education was the most important thing. My dad in particular was very hesitant about the idea but because I was at University when I first started he was OK with it as long as finishing my degree was my first priority.”
Fiona stands apart as a talented, beautiful, intelligent model in the homogenous Australian Fashion industry. Although being born and brought up in Australia, she comes from a very mixed heritage. Her father is Anglo Indian with Armenian and English roots while her mother is a Burgher, a Sri Lankan with Dutch heritage.
Her roots in South Asia don’t stray far from her. She recalls a time where she was working Fashion Week in India and having food poisoning on the last day. “I was a wreck, vomiting constantly, and couldn’t keep anything down but I was determined to finish because I had one of my favourite designers, Satya Paul and my mum watch the shows. The organisers had a bucket ready for me and right before stepping on the runway I made full use of it. I managed to hold it together on the runway but the minute I stepped off after the finale, I went straight back to the bucket.”
Chadwick’s Models has treated Fiona incredibly well, supporting her whilst working overseas and pushing her into the limelight not only nationally but on the international stage. Having won at the WAFAs this year, she clearly holds Western Australia in a special place, “it’s an honour, there’s something about being recognised in your own home town that is hard to describe.” Western Australia and the fashion industry has been incredibly progressive in the diverse models and designs that it supports. This is exemplified by the nominations of Fiona and Ayor Makur Chuot. However, when discussing the lack of ethnic models on the runways and magazines, Fiona recognises that Australia has a lot more work to do. “The industry has definitely come a long way in terms of model diversity from when I first started but it’s still not where it should be. The change is slow and it’s something designers, magazine editors and show producers all have to make a conscious effort to improve on. It’s one of those things where young girls or boys who don’t see models like themselves being represented on the runway or in magazines, then don’t aspire to enter the industry, thus creating a smaller pool of ethnic models. Once the diversity of models in campaigns and on runways increase then so too will the diversity of models entering the market. We have seen companies like Burberry and Chanel changing on a global scale so hopefully the industry as a whole will follow suit.”