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TAFE NSW alumna exhibits industry skills on an international stage

TAFE NSW Coffs Harbour

TAFE NSW alumna exhibits industry skills on an international stage

Mad Max inspired costumes for the 2023 Mardi Gras Parade, designed by TAFE NSW student, Leah Benson

Australia’s fashion industry employs over 489,000 people, making it a larger employer than the nation's mining sector. Still, Leah Benson, a proud alumna of TAFE NSW Coffs Harbour, holds one of the industry’s most sought-after roles - Head of Costume for Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

Tens of thousands of Mardi Gras revellers witnessed Leah’s talent as she unveiled her designs on the iconic Oxford Street and adorned the city’s centre with colour, creativity and glam.

On making it in an industry saturated with talent, Leah credits her studies at TAFE NSW for leading her on a trailblazing path to success.

“In terms of career moves, studying at TAFE NSW was the best thing I ever did. My Certificate III in Fashion Design gave me the knowledge and skills to explore any career path within the fashion trade," said Leah.

“I was employed in an entry-level fashion role shortly after I completed the course. In that role, I had the opportunity to design and make a dress for Mardi Gras’ workshop manager. She was impressed by my work and offered me a job."

“I’ve now worked my way up to be the Head of Costume. It may have been a chance encounter, but I wouldn’t have had these opportunities without the hands-on making, concept ideation and design skills I learnt throughout my studies,” said Leah.

Now in her fifth year as the renowned event’s Head of Costume, Leah’s mark on the fashion industry continues to expand. She’s established her own label along NSW’s North Coast, LeLash, created costumes for Network 10’s The Masked Singer, and is behind the NSW Waratahs’ newest mascot.

While the fashion and textile industry contributed more than $27.2 billion to the Australian economy in 2021, the demand for contemporary professionals is expected to grow as the industry evolves to embrace more complex design, production, and retail models.

On what it takes to make it in the fashion world today, Leah said, “Gain those practical skills, study hard and keep at your craft – I’m living proof that it can lead you to the role of your dreams. Just keep creating and honing your skills!” Leah finished.

TAFE NSW offers over fifteen fashion design courses, from short courses to degrees, to prepare students to work as creative professionals in the global fashion industry.

Media contact: Vanessa Lista, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist, mobile 0450 442 109.