FASH­ION­ING HER BEST SELF

THE WOMAN BE­HIND GLAM, RETRO FASH­ION LA­BEL KORTNI POR­TIA OPENS UP ABOUT HER JOUR­NEY FROM DRUG ADDICTION TO HAV­ING HER WORK SHOW­CASED ON THE RUN­WAY

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | COVER STORY - WORDS: NICKY MOF­FAT

HAV­ING climbed out of drug addiction and a toxic re­la­tion­ship, Courtney Cush knows about hard work.

She says her fash­ion la­bel, Kortni Por­tia, is the em­bod­i­ment of her best self, and cel­e­brates women’s em­pow­er­ment, courage and strength.

The 28-year-old Caloun­dra resident cre­ated the stylish, high qual­ity evening wear and oc­ca­sional wear la­bel last year and now goes by Kortni Por­tia.

Kortni suf­fered from crip­pling low self­es­teem for years, and has at­ten­tion deficit/ hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der (ADHD) but was mis­di­ag­nosed at 14 years of age as de­pressed.

Meet­ing a psychiatri­st, who was also a neu­rol­o­gist and gave Kortni her first cor­rect di­ag­no­sis, was a ma­jor turn­ing point in her life.

“When I went to him, he said, ‘you’re on the com­plete wrong medication and you’ve been di­ag­nosed wrong from the beginning’,” she said.

“He ex­plained how my brain works.

“It was crazy.

“I didn’t have to tell him my life story for him to give me a proper di­ag­no­sis.

“Other doc­tors would just sit there, let you rave on and then just write you a pre­scrip­tion.

“This doctor told me lit­er­ally not to say any­thing.”

Not only did the new medication make Kortni feel­ing phys­i­cally bet­ter, she stopped feel­ing fail­ure and des­per­a­tion when she couldn’t pay at­ten­tion for long pe­ri­ods.

She un­der­stood she was wired dif­fer­ently to oth­ers.

Kortni had left school to study fash­ion design at TAFE, but “couldn’t sit still in a class­room”.

“I just kind of gave up,” she said.

“When some­one sits down one-on-one and ex­plains it to me, I’m good, but in a class­room, you’re just a number.”

With the cre­ative side of fash­ion, how­ever, she could im­merse her­self for hours.

She worked in fash­ion re­tail for seven years, win­ning awards and “lov­ing it”, but left at age 24 after her recre­ational drug habit spi­ralled out of con­trol.

“It started off just party drugs,” she said. “There was a mas­sive ice (metham­phetamine) epi­demic. I got caught up in that.

“I’ve got an ad­dic­tive per­son­al­ity and I just grav­i­tated to­wards it, I guess.

“I felt lost and that was a cop­ing tool.”

She “wasn’t Kortni any­more”, and was told she nearly died sev­eral times.

“It got pretty bad,” she said.

“There was a lot of stuff I won’t for­get but I still have to work through.

“The per­son I be­came … you kind of lose your moral com­pass, in a way.”

Kortni kicked her addiction after re­peated stays in a drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre, but said that wasn’t a straight­for­ward process.

“It’s not a one-stop place that’ll fix you,” Kortni said.

“It’s like go­ing to a play­ground with other new peo­ple … there’s peo­ple there that use too.”

She was deeply ashamed of her ac­tions and drug abuse, and ac­cept­ing help from oth­ers was not easy.

She made friends in re­hab and would spend her time learn­ing about men­tal health and try­ing to help them.

“I wasn’t help­ing my­self,” she said.

“It clicked: I can’t help them un­til I help me.

“I started get­ting on medication and do­ing spir­i­tual work.”

Let­ting her fam­ily back into her life helped the new Kortni take shape.

Kortni’s mother is a reiki healer and psy­chic medium, and her brother sent Kortni a Tony Rob­bins’ mo­ti­va­tional course on CD.

Th­ese ges­tures gen­uinely helped Kortni over­come her habit.

“Even when I was us­ing drugs in there (in re­hab), it came to a point where it wasn’t do­ing any­thing for me,” Kortni said.

“So I started to plan what I wanted my fu­ture to be like.”

After “com­ing clean” Kortni started de­sign­ing, and used a Bris­bane-based man­u­fac­turer to re­lease her first col­lec­tion, The In­de­pen­dent, in Oc­to­ber last year.

Then she dis­cov­ered the “awesome Kerry Xy­nias”, a fash­ion stal­wart with more than 30 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence who now men­tors Kortni, help­ing her launch her next col­lec­tions and de­velop her la­bel into a “true busi­ness”.

“She’s worked in mas­sive cou­ture fash­ion houses in Lon­don, and … she’s full of knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence,” Kortni said.

“I’d bring her my de­signs, and we’d work together on a pat­tern.

“She’d show me one-on-one how to do that.”

Kortni’s la­bel has now re­leased its third col­lec­tion, the sassy, glam­orous Lav­ish, which took to the run­way at the Mercedes-benz Fash­ion Fes­ti­val Bris­bane last month.

Think se­quins, satins, and rock ‘n’ roll styles, but with a mod­ern twist.

“Lav­ish is in­spired by the iconic peo­ple who rocked the cre­ative in­dus­try in the 60s and 70s,” Kortni said.

“It was a time pe­riod of ex­per­i­men­tal fash­ion, glam­orous nights and rock and roll hearthrobs.”

The re­ac­tion to her show was “over­whelm­ing”, she said.

“A lot of peo­ple said, when my stuff came out, it was just rocking — it re­ally lifted up the room,” she said.

“It was just the best mo­ment, to have th­ese peo­ple that I didn’t even re­ally know, tell me that they re­ally en­joyed it … it’s like fairy­tale s--- to me.”

Spec­ta­tors ap­proached her with praise, but she looked over her shoul­der, think­ing “are they talk­ing to me”?

She is now so busy fill­ing orders and scour­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties that she barely stops work­ing.

Kortni Por­tia of­fers a 14-day turn­around from or­der to de­liv­ery, work­ing with a man­u­fac­turer in Bris­bane to sup­ply cus­tomers with pieces, all made in sizes 6-16.

Kortni’s life is now as “sparkly” and flow­ing as the satins and se­quins of her lat­est col­lec­tion.

This third col­lec­tion is “re­ally 100 per cent me” she said.

When a woman buys one of her out­fits, she’s get­ting a brand that sup­ports women’s em­pow­er­ment, and cel­e­brates in­de­pen­dence and feminine strength.

Four­teen of her pieces were mod­elled on the run­way.

“I’ve been en­vis­ag­ing do­ing run­way shows since the beginning. It’s been such a big goal and I was ac­tu­ally do­ing it,” she said.

“I was proud. Ev­ery­thing came to the surface. “I was like, ‘oh my god, this can’t be hap­pen­ing’.”

To say her new world was ful­fill­ing was an un­der­state­ment, she agreed.

“It’s like know­ing your pur­pose … dis­cov­er­ing that what you’re good at is what you love to do — it’s the best thing,” she said.

Picture: Pa­trick Woods / Sun­shine Coast Daily

TRANS­FORMED: Caloun­dra’s Courtney Cush has launched la­bel, Kortni Por­tia. BE­LOW: Models in Kortni Por­tia pieces, and the de­signer at work.

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