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Dunedin fashion graduate Emily Scott is still waiting to receive more than $15,000 worth of prizes from Australian Graduates Fashion Week, more than two months after winning the inaugural event in Sydney.
The Otago Daily Times has been told others associated with the November event are also out of pocket and have taken legal action against organisers.
Miss Scott (21) won $10,000 to launch her fashion design career, a $5000 website package, a two-page spread in international fashion magazine Cielo and various other prizes.
But she said calls and emails to event organisers had been ignored and she doubted whether she would ever receive her prizes.
''The whole thing just seems like a joke. If this is how they are going to run it, I don't think it will go very far,'' she said.
An Australian public relations employee who worked for Australian Fashion Graduates Week said the event had ''turned sour'' and Miss Scott was not the only one owed money.
The ex-employee asked to remain anonymous because she did not want to be associated with the competition.
''Myself and several other team members have not received payment for work, nor reimbursement for things we paid for.
''I spoke to Emily before Christmas and advised her to take the same action I have taken, to get legal help for this matter,'' she said.
''Unfortunately, a great event has turned sour and given itself a bad reputation,'' the woman said.
Project co-ordinator Elmedin Kumalic said delays in getting prizes to winners were beyond his control.
He said the $10,000 cash prize was only registered in Australia, despite the competition being opened to New Zealanders. The money had proved difficult to transfer. He said Miss Scott would receive the money in the next week, as well as her other prizes.
''She was advised there was going to be a delay,'' he said.
Mr Kumalic said other prize winners were also waiting to receive products, which had been late coming from sponsors.
He did not know the details about money owed to former employees, but said it was being dealt with. He said prize delays were unfortunate and had been made worse by businesses closing over Christmas and the New Year.
He was unable to comment on whether the event would be held again.
Cielo editor Dimitri Frost, who also judged the competition, said yesterday he had been overseas for work and unable to arrange the spread which was part of the prize. He said he would feature Ms Scott's work as she had been promised.
It was the first major competition Miss Scott had entered, and she was left disillusioned.
''You just presume that if you win something you will actually receive it.''
The event included 32 fashion graduates from Australia and New Zealand, of which Miss Scott was one of three entrants from the Otago Polytechnic School of Design.
She travelled to Sydney with her parents and sister to see her garments modelled at the competition, for which she paid a $98 entry fee.
''I was so excited about winning. It was amazing to be praised by the judges. They said my collection was cohesive. They loved the accessories and colours used, and they appreciated the unconventional cuts of my garments.
''All that excitement and elation has now disappeared, I feel really let down and frustrated.''
Otago Polytechnic academic leader of fashion Margo Barton said it was extremely concerning a graduate appeared to have been ''ripped off''.
''This is an appalling way to treat a young designer and the organisers of this event should be very embarrassed. It's a disgrace that such an exciting moment in Emily's career has been tarnished by this level of unprofessionalism. She deserves her prize,'' Dr Barton said.