From Youth Foyers to Fashion

Designer and small business owner, Nancy talks fashion, transitioning into Melbourne’s tough rental market and what motivated her to create OZIYA.

“I’m a local Melbourne designer and the owner of a bold Afro-inspired fashion label called OZIYA.  Originally from Uganda, I studied Fashion, Design and Technology at RMIT and I’ve been fortunate to work in the fashion industry for the past two years,” she said.

A self-starter, Nancy manages her own business, while employed as a Design Assistant at The Social Studio, a social enterprise in Melbourne’s Collingwood.

Nancy’s proud of her work in fashion, including a project which saw her team up with the NGV in collaboration with Patrick Daag’s Flack Studio for the Art of Dining: Best of the Best 2019 Exhibition. She’s also taken part in the Melbourne Fashion Festival.

A former Education First Youth (EFY) Foyer student, Nancy first heard of Launch Housing from a youth worker after she experienced homelessness.

The EFY Foyers work to break the cycle of homelessness by offering students supported housing on a TAFE campus while they study and work towards employment.

“Living at the Foyer was great … staff were always around to lend a hand and had connections to help students find employment, internships and so forth. I always felt staff cared.”

Now living independently, Nancy says it’s been an eye-opening journey going from supported accommodation to living in her own private rental place, which she points out isn’t cheap!

“I started looking for a place in inner-city Melbourne as I wanted to live on my own … I felt I can do it [live independently] no matter what comes my way.”

In Victoria, it’s tough at times for young people to know where to turn to for help in a housing crisis, and sadly on any given night 27,680 16-24 year olds experience homelessness.

Nancy has now found a safe, secure rental place to call home and wants others, who may be experiencing homelessness or who are living in over-crowded or other precarious circumstances, to know that there’s always hope!

“There’s always a place willing to help you get on your feet. You don’t have to feel like you are alone in the world. Take every opportunity that comes your way.”

Proudly independent and well on her way to realising her dreams, Nancy is starting a new chapter and carefully building her fashion brand, OZIYA and exploring her passion of designing clothing to her heart’s content.

“I like the idea of design that’s simple, yet unique and ties to Africa in all its incredible diversity,” she said.

“I believe fashion can start new conversations and I want to communicate who I am as an African-Australian through my designs. My inspiration is my culture in all its beauty. I want people to experience what I feel through my clothing.”

Five years from now,  Nancy envisions being able to travel widely, ideally with a couple of boutique stores, her own studio and even owning her own home, complete with pets and room for friends to drop by.

Follow Nancy’s loud fashion label OZIYA on Instagram.