Interview with Tahlia and Aisha Bowie, Founder of Bowie Empire

Inspired by the Torres Strait Islander lifestyle, Tahlia Bowie and her sister Aisha, launched their own fashion line, ‘Bowie Empire’, a high-end streetwear line designed to be worn both casually and formally. With an accumulative skill set of both design and business, the Bowie sisters make for a powerful duo, even more so for their shared interests in streetwear. Inspired by art and music, ‘Bowie Empire’ marks its difference by refusing to be contained to one genre, taking elements from hip hop, Islander culture, and even French couture.

Can you tell me a bit about how your fashion journey started?

Tahlia: It started when we were very young as we were always into music, dancing, and drawing. We weren’t really into fashion because that wasn’t a big thing where we were from.

Aisha: When we were little we were always drawing and just generally being very creative. I don’t think we realised at the time that it would be something we’d pursue. We didn’t know much about fashion growing up on the Island. It was when we moved to Cairns that we were more exposed to fashion, and we immediately took an interest in it. We both decided to further our studies so that we could learn more. Then we moved to Sydney because, well, everything’s there!

So, I believe you (Aisha) studied business and (Tahlia) studied fashion? Did you guys do that deliberately or did it just happen?

Aisha: When we decided to create Bowie Empire it was agreed that I’d do the business studies and Tahlia would study fashion. Before business, I got a diploma in fashion styling too. We studied departments that complemented each other so that we could work together.

What made you decide to come to QUT Creative Enterprise Australia?

Tahlia: My aunt sent me the link to the company website and was like, ‘There’s an Indigenous scholarship for a fashion program’, and so I figured I’d give it a go. We’d been in Sydney for four years and we thought a change would be good. I applied and a few days later Thuy contacted me to tell me I got accepted. I literally moved to Brisbane the next week!

How would you describe ‘Bowie Empire?’

Tahlia: Street but luxe. So it’s high-end streetwear but it’s unique because it has that cultural influence.

Why did you want to incorporate your culture?

Tahlia: Because our culture is very under represented!

Aisha: We want to celebrate it by putting it on the runway. We’ve never seen it before.

Tahlia: People aren’t familiar with it. When you see it on the runway it’s more like wearable art and we wanted to make it more current.

What’s it like being in an environment with other designers?

Tahlia: It’s so inspiring! We all feed off each other’s energy.

Aisha: They all come from different backgrounds so it’s inspiring to hear where they draw their inspiration from.

What would you say has been your biggest hurdle?

Aisha: Definitely the research of cultural protocols. We need to make sure we don’t offend any of the people where we come from. You can’t just put anything on a t shirt. We have to make sure we check everything with the elders before we print.

Tahlia: Also being very young! We don’t know everything and there’s a lot of room for improvement – especially with making business decisions.

Who’s your go-to for inspiration for Bowie Empire?

Tahlia: FKA Twigs! Love her!

Aisha: Balmain’s Creative Director (Olivier Rousteing), I think he’s a genius. He’s uniquely created all of these amazing designs. You can tell when a piece has been designed by him. It’s really out of the box.

What have you got coming up?

Tahlia: Well, besides the showcase we’re going to Cairns soon. We’ll be presenting to a few schools and talking to students who want to pursue a career in fashion, which should be interesting! I’m glad I have my sister with me for that.

Five-year plan?

Tahlia: We’ve received quite a few requests to ship and sell our range overseas so that’s definitely something we want to do because at the moment we only ship in Australia.

Aisha: We want a lot of people to be familiar with not only our brand but where we come from.

Tahlia: Definitely participate in more fashion events. We want to be involved in as much as possible, not only to raise brand awareness but because it’s something we’re really passionate about. Also, I just want to go overseas already!

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