Nancy Pattison is a quiet achiever whose actions speak louder than her words. In the last few years the South West Rocks local and proud Dunghutti woman has managed to create a successful swimwear label whilst holding down a part-time job as a community engagement officer for the Red Cross in Kempsey. During the warmer months, Nancy runs an Indii pop up store in the South West Rocks CBD. In her non-existent spare time, she’s also organised an Indigenous model search and funded Saltsista, a surfing workshop for local Indigenous kids. Right now, Nancy is preparing for Saltwater, an Indigenous swim, surf and resortwear showcase which will be held at Trial Bay in November. As she rattles off an impressive list of projects and achievements, it’s evident that almost everything Nancy does is for the benefit of her community.
Growing up in South West Rocks, Nancy spent her childhood at the beach and still feels most at ease by the ocean. The picturesque coastline of her hometown inspires the images and inspiration for her swimwear label, Indii, and, every afternoon, she heads to Trial Bay to take photos on her iphone, which will eventually become the prints on her next range of swimwear, and meditate.
No stranger to hard work, Nancy has taught herself the skills needed to design and run a fashion label, whilst funding the venture by working. Indii has been a long-held dream for Nancy and she feels deservedly proud that is has been realised. Since its conception, Indii Swimwear has been featured in the Swimwear Model of the Year calendar and showcased at the VAMFF Global Indigenous Runway last year.
“I’ve wanted to start my own swimwear label ever since I did work experience at Crescent Head Surf Co when I was at school,” she says. “It was there that I started to look at swimwear designs but I didn’t actually do it until years later.”
The birth of Nancy’s daughter Kyindi (whom she calls Indii), five years ago provided her with both the motivation and the name for her beloved label.
“When my daughter was born it gave me the space and the inspiration to finally get to work on my dream,” she says. “I had no money and no experience, but I didn’t let that stop me!”
“I never formally studied anything, I’ve just learned it along the way through googling and YouTube!” She laughs. “My mum sews, and she’s helped me with that side of things, but, really, I’ve just got in and had a go.”
While designing swimwear is one of her dreams, Nancy is equally passionate about her work with the Red Cross. After attending Melville High School, Nancy began her working life at the Kempsey Macleay RSL Club before moving to Newcastle to pursue a Bachelor of Social Science. Not content with student life, she went to work full time at the RTA. A job in home and community care followed and eventually she found herself working with youth back in her home town – a job she loves.
“Working with young people – particularly girls, is my passion,” she says, her face lighting up. “I love my work with Red Cross because so much of what I do revolves around leadership and motivating the girls in my community to do their best through school and to nurture their creativity. I get to teach them entrepreneurial skills and provide them with the encouragement they need to pursue what they love.”
Nancy’s passion for uplifting young girls extends far beyond her paid work. Last year, she sponsored an Aboriginal model search, enlisting local portrait photographer Alicia Fox to take beautiful photographs of the finalists and provide them with their first portfolios. She also conducted design workshops for the girls, teaching them how to not only model clothes, but to create them.
“I’m showing them that there are different ways to be an entrepreneur and helping them to practice various ways to build that capacity,” Nancy says. “So many of these girls have wonderful creative skills and I love helping them to find a focus and hone it.”
Nancy finds her own inspiration in Indigenous designers, and from the stunning landscape that surrounds her. She attributes much of her early success to local support from businesses like the Crescent Head Surf Co and Pandanus Boutique, who were quick to take up the fledgling Indii collection. Nancy urges anyone with an idea that they can’t shake to, in the famous words of Nike, “just do it”.
“My advice to anyone who wants to have a go is to be courageous and try something new,” she says. “Get clear on your goals and intentions, then take your time and be patient. I love looking back at my old vision boards and seeing how much I’ve achieved.”
While many people struggle to find their purpose in life, Nancy’s is crystal clear.
“For me, it’s all about giving back to the community that has raised and encouraged me,” she says. “I just feel like this is the work I’m meant to be doing.”