The most exciting show at Australian Fashion Week almost didn't happen.

It was a runway filled with pom-poms, pussy power and pastel pink. The crowd was as colourful as the collection and the models were dancing, shimmying and in the worst fashion sin of all, smiling. Oh, and it was held on a boat in Sydney Harbour.

Fun label Dyspnea (pronounced dys-nia) sure know how to launch a collection.

But the most exciting fashion show at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia 2017 almost didn’t happen.

Models and designers Rach and Jam after the show. Image: Getty

Founded in 2013 after the pair met in Tafe, Rachel Motteram and Jameen Zalfen of the pompom-and-sparkle-filled label Dyspnea first showed at MBFWA in 2015.


While an opportunity to show at the country's premiere fashion event (that often gets international coverage) is a privilege, it doesn't come without a cost. Literally.

"We didn't think we would be doing Sydney Fashion Week at all this year, it wasn't in our plan. It's very expensive to put on a show," the pair told Mamamia.

Where'd that month go? ???? Next ✈️ Perth ???? Then ✈️ Sydney ????????????????

A post shared by Rachel Motteram (@rach_dyspnea) on

"We did it three years ago and we're probably still paying it off, we don't even know. And we couldn't do another show unless we got the support behind us."


Then at the final hour, All Occasion Cruises approached the duo and they "couldn't say no".

"We started working with sponsors from then on, including Maybelline and Aperol Spritz, and then we got the go ahead," Motteram says.

"And thank God we did. We got all the 'Yes's' and it was all actions go!" (Post continues after gallery.)


The result was just a few weeks to design and create their entire collection.

"It was very last minute. We had about a month to whip up this collection... for eight minutes of showtime," Zalfen says.

"It's hectic but worth it."

The pair say the collection was inspired by "all the women in their lives".
Listen: We’re obsessed with this Instagram account that shows fierce, fab, man-repelling outfits. Post continues after audio.

"We were inspired by the strong and powerful women we're surrounded by or we attract. They are all here today bar our mums," says Motteram.

"We hope that's it for every woman who wants to make a statement."

The collection name 'Pussy Posse' is also partly a response to the current climate (Trump, anyone?).

"It definitely played a role in inspiring that. We've always been a quite subtle girl power brand, but this year, we call our house The Pussy Palace, so it kind of came round that we wanted to turn this collection into fempower," Motteram says.

Caged in doors getting freakin fluffy ????????????✨???????? #sneakpeak

A post shared by ✨???? DYSPNEA ????✨ (@dyspnea_) on


"We wanted to put the word out there that the word feminism is not a dirty word, it's for everyone," added Zalfen.

To prove that point, the pair had a diverse cast of models showcase their clothes, including transfluid model Curtis and Australia's first transgender model, Gemma Cowling.

"We did also want a guy who was very keen but he's in London, very rude," Zalfen jokes.

"We want to show that it's for everyone - to be a feminist and the collection - not just for girls".

Image: Getty

The actual collection proved to be a sea of nudes, lilac, a hint of burgundy, baby blue and plenty of baby (or millenial!) pink, cementing the of-the-moment colour as the brand's signature.

"We've toughened pink up in our collection. We're trying to make it a strong colour, a kind of bad boy colour. It's not considered a weak colour," says Zalfen.

"'Fluffs out for the girls' is the quote of this collection."

And fluff there was, with pom-poms, beading and sparkles galore, plus a '90s style hankerchief top and 'nude dresses' guaranteed to send red carpets into a frenzy. It's no surprise that the label has become a familiar sight at parties and festivals.

Image: Getty

"There's lots of soft tulle and lots of sheer, an incredibly sheer collection but we're layering it a lot," says Zalfen.

"And we've added baby pink denim which is new for us," Motteram adds.

While the pieces are certainly playful and fun, they're designed to be fierce too.

"We wanted every look to be powerful and we've chosen the models and the looks around the girls and their feel. We want it to be strong," says Zalfen.

Makeup from Maybelline complimented this, with MBFWA Makeup Director Nigel Stanislaus creating a "Rock 'n Roll, harlequin princess" inspired look, with spidery lashes, pink lipstick under the eyes and a blurred two tone lip.


And although the overall looks can be a little intimidating for those for whom pom poms are not everyday attire, they are wearable.

"With our looks, you can pull them all apart, they are very layered, so if you just want a little bit of 'Dyspy', then it's a little crop over a t-shirt. Just layer it," says Motteram.

"We wear jeans, t-shirt and crops all the time."


So glad @dyspnea_ brought back the fluff! ????✨ (pic by @xdantunes )

A post shared by Kate-Louise Lavender (@xxgroovieghouliexx) on

"We love watching all our actual hardcore fans, and we wish we could do it all head to toe! It's our alter ego. They're so confident," agrees Zalfen.

Overall, they couldn't be prouder of the almost-didn't-happen collection.

"We're so happy with this collection. Right now, we f***ing love everything," the pair say.

"Because we've done it in such a short amount of time, we're not sick of it yet!"