Dui Cameron with her Indian sister Sumitra.
Dui Cameron with her Indian sister Sumitra.

Designer revels in Indian double life for decades

EACH morning, part-time Peregian Beach resident Dui Cameron receives about 500 "good morning" messages from employees in Indian factories.

The founder of wildly successful Bohemian-style fashion label Boom Shankar, Dui has happily maintained a double-life for more than two decades.

"The factories that I work with are family," she said.

"I'm at every wedding, every kid's birthday, pretty much.

"It's pretty crazy, but I love them."

Her 16-year-old son, Charlie, was born at Nambour General Hospital and has had two homes since he was six months old.

Fashion designer Dui Cameron and her wardrobe at her Peregian Beach Home. Photo Lachie Millard
Fashion designer Dui Cameron and her wardrobe at her Peregian Beach Home. Photo Lachie Millard

"My son has grown up with the workers, where I've been at work in the factory and he's been passed from hand, to hand, to hand.

"He runs around in the factory like he owns the joint, jumping on fabric bundles … the women that work there are his aunties, and he calls them aunties."

Boom Shankar's two Peregian Beach studios are where the designs happen, and in the months leading up to each season's release Dui lives in her farmhouse home in Rajasthan, where she is close to the factories that produce her ranges.

Lalar Dress, from Boom Shankar's summer 2019/20 collection, Home Away From Home, in stores November 7.
Lalar Dress, from Boom Shankar's summer 2019/20 collection, Home Away From Home, in stores November 7.

Dui's love affair with India began 25 years ago after two years of travel through Asia landed her in Goa, where she ran a market selling upcycled wedding saris she crafted into western clothing.

"Nobody had really done that before, that I'd seen before," she said.

"It was a fun thing, because I loved sequins, and I loved bling, and I loved bright colours like fuchsia, and gold sequins and hand-embroidered flowers all over it. There's a lot of things you can make with that."

Dui discovered the state of Rajasthan, where she now lives in a "farmhouse", after driving regularly between two houses in Goa and Manali (a two-day drive).

Dui Cameron and a couple of her Indian tortoise friends at her Pushkar home
Dui Cameron and a couple of her Indian tortoise friends at her Pushkar home

"The cities and the towns are quite dusty … and in contrast you've got these women walking around in brightly coloured saris, and men with these fluorescent turbans, all dressed in white," she said.

"It's magical - you see this burst of colour in among a desert scene."

As Indian-made fabrics had been her choice for her early styles, a mental map of Indian fashion talent soon sketched out in her mind and Rajasthan emerged as one of its centres.

"Some of the hand-printing that was coming out of Rajasthan is very beautiful and embroidery - some of the Muslim workers are just insane with their hand embroidery," she said.

Her designs were heavily influenced by what was available by Indian designs, but over time she began collecting vintage prints in Australia and using those as inspiration for her own prints.

"We reintroduced these vintage fabrics, and now it's more block prints."

Block printing is a process where woodblocks, carved with patterns or images, are used to press paint or dye onto fabrics or paper. Where multiple colours are needed, multiple blocks are used.

Dui Cameron from Noosa'a Boom Shankar
Dui Cameron from Noosa'a Boom Shankar

"We would make our own blocks, with different artisans close to my home," she said.

"We'd develop lots of different prints using them."

Dui has run markets since she was 16 years old, but Eumundi Markets was her first stall selling fashion.

"Because I started at Eumundi Markets, I've got a beautiful bunch of women that have always been incredible followers of Boom Shankar."

These people were an "awesome inspiration" and motivated Dui to continue with the business, even though, she admitted, retirement was playing on her mind.

Sundar dress from Boom Shankar's summer 2019/20 collection, Home Away From Home, in stores November 7.
Sundar dress from Boom Shankar's summer 2019/20 collection, Home Away From Home, in stores November 7.

"I'm probably quite an old face on the Coast, I know a lot of people," she said.

"They're always coming up to me, asking, 'what colour's out next?'. It's nice, it's a bit of a team effort with some of these old customers now."

Many of her pieces are timeless, including the guru pants - a comfortable pant that can be dressed up or down.

"My mum, who's 78, wears them.

"Yoga teachers wear them, school teachers wear them.

"I wear them mowing the lawn … they're comfy.

"And they're very flattering, and are probably our absolute biggest selling item that I sell absolutely thousands of.

"I just continue to change print with it."

Island midi dress, from Boom Shankar's summer 2019/20 collection, Home Away From Home, in stores November 7.
Island midi dress, from Boom Shankar's summer 2019/20 collection, Home Away From Home, in stores November 7.

If she could, she would create only "new stuff all the time", but these "bread-and-butter" favourites were part of Boom Shankar, too.

Boom Shankar no longer has a stall at Eumundi Markets but has a studio above Pitchfork restaurant in Peregian Beach village shops.

A second studio at Peregian Beach, two warehouses and a showroom at Noosaville complete Boom Shankar's Australian presence, and service relationships with 300 shops that stock its items.

About half of Boom Shankar's sales are online, and this side of the business is growing fast, Dui said.

"I've been persistent and consistent, and there've been lots of lessons along the way.

"I'm not business-minded, I'm creative. I've had lots of people help, and that's been a journey."

Sitar dress with spice spot block print, from Boom Shankar's summer 2019/20 collection, Home Away From Home, in stores November 7.
Sitar dress with spice spot block print, from Boom Shankar's summer 2019/20 collection, Home Away From Home, in stores November 7.

She said Boom Shankar, along with many other labels, skipped wholesale and just sold their own products through their website.

"I'm proud that everyone can afford us … there might be a couple of items that are a bit more, because of the workmanship."

Boom Shankar's third drop for its spring/summer range Home Away From Home is out on November 7.

The label will also showcasing their latest collection at Brisbane Fashion Month's Resort Finale runway event on October 30.

Brisbane Fashion Month is now in its fourth year, and boasts the largest collection of Queensland designers of any event in the state, alongside a month-long series of curated runways, industry workshops, panel discussions, and networking and business development opportunities.

For more information visit brisbanefashionmonth.com.au.