An evolution of the Pathways Program, take a sneak peek at an exclusive capsule collection by five up-and-coming First Nations designers.
Passionate about supporting diverse design perspectives, David Jones is proud to partner with the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation’s Indigenous Fashion Projects to present the Pathways Program. An ongoing initiative, The Pathways Program works to create a future Australian fashion industry that is more inclusive and representative of Indigenous design and culture. Following names like Ngali, Kirrikin, Liandra Swim, MAARA Collective and Native Swimwear from mentorship to their runway debut at AfterPay Australian Fashion Week, The First Nations Designer Capsule Collection marks an exciting next step in the program. Available as a department store exclusive online and at David Jones’ Pacific Fair store, join us in celebrating the First Nations designers that promise to redefine your resort wardrobe.
As a First Nation woman, designer Natalie Cunningham of Native Swimwear has been taught how to care for country. “This understanding has led me to utilise my fashion platform so consumers too can contribute to looking after the land and the waterways, not only for our generation, but also for generations to come” shares Natalie, “I incorporate various aspects of my Aboriginal culture into my designs by making a conscious decision to handcraft 100% of our garments from eco-friendly and sustainable fabrics such as discarded, lost, or abandoned fishing nets and regenerated PET plastic bottles that are killing our marine animals.” For the capsule collection, Natalie took inspiration from health and wellbeing, adding that the addition of activewear to her label came from acknowledging how vital exercise is for our mental health during lockdown.
With a special connection to David Jones, The First Nations Designer Capsule Collection takes on a unique space in Natalie’s heart, “Growing up as a young girl, my mother worked three jobs to give my brother and I everything we needed. Mum managed many of the cosmetic counters in various David Jones stores through Brisbane, I literally grew up in David Jones stores surrounded by sweet-smelling perfumes, luxurious fashion and pretty ladies with their immaculate make-up. Fifteen years later, I decided to follow in my Grandmother’s footsteps and make fashion my profession, not just a hobby; it was always my goal to have my contribution to fashion available through David Jones.”
“The little 11 year old girl waiting for Mum to finish her shift has grown up and has her own children who now see their Mum’s design’s in Australia’s epitome of a luxurious department store. It truly is a pinch myself experience that I can now show my children; when you have passion, patience and courage to pursue your dreams, you can achieve anything.”
Natalie Cunningham of Native Swimwear on what the First Nations Designer Capsule Collection means to her
Liandra Swim is the eco-conscious and ethically minded swimwear label founded with the vision to educate and celebrate the resilience, brilliance and versatility of Aboriginal Australia. Designed by Liandra Gaykamangu, each piece by Liandra Swim shares a unique story inspired by her own lived experience with references to Indigenous dot painting balanced with of the moment silhouettes. For the SS21/22 collection, Liandra found inspiration in the geographical location of Milingimbi, in North-East Arnhem Land. The largest of the Crocodile Islands, Milingimbi is the place she first called home and where she has strong familial and cultural ties.
“I remember the early days, dreaming about an opportunity to be in-front of Bridget Veals and now that it is here I just feel so fulfilled. I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months brings and have loved being a part of the IFP x DJ Pathways Program. My mentor Bianca Spender has been so supportive and insightful, which has made the whole experience so much more rewarding.”
Liandra Gaykamangu of Liandra Swim on what The Pathways Program has meant to her
With a creative practice rooted in designer Julie Shaw’s indigenous heritage, MAARA Collective is redefining summer staples. Named after many hands involved in the creative process, ‘Maara’ comes from the Yuwaalaraay and Gamilaraay language group. Inspired by the rich and unique creativity of Indigenous artists working across artforms from around Australia, Julie sees MAARA Collective as a platform in which she can bring together her love of culture and design to create collections with a collaborative element.
“The Resort 2022 Collection features the dreamy ‘Tjukula’ (waterholes) print which has been licensed by Pitjantjatjara artist Lexie Michael of Ernabella Arts Inc. The print is a representation of the artist’s mother’s and grandfather’s country south of Pipalyatjara, depicting variations in the landscape where people travelling from Kata Tjuta and Uluru would pass through to the remote APY Lands. This artwork is ancient in story and place, yet sits so effortlessly within a contemporary fashion collection.”
Julie Shaw of MAARA Collective on the inspiration behind the collection
With the ambition of creating pieces that are simultaneously gentle and respectful, Denni Francisco’s Ngali is earning a reputation for the perfect balance of sleek shapes and prints that celebrate Country. Ngali translates to ‘we’ or ‘us’ in a number of Aboriginal languages and it’s through the brand that Denni sees the collaborative, connected and together version of ‘us’ most clearly. Centred on a working process that operates through the lens of Yindayamarra, a Wiradjuri word, Ngali works to honour these cross-category collaborations with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives. With a design ethos that focuses on print, Ngali’s collections blend style with storytelling, often adding a touch of the unexpected to the silhouette. Having selected the artwork along with the Artist, Denni then works to ensure the design is translated in a respectful and acceptable way, again with the artist’s approval, noting that “whilst respecting the story of the artist, the translation of the artwork helps to tell the story behind the collection.”
“Art is a lens through which our people see, understand and communicate with others. We want more people to know who we are, who we’ve always been and that there’s more to us than what you see through the lens of 200 years of colonisation.”
Ngali designer and founder Denni Francisco on the ways fashion connects her with her culture
Developed by proud Wonnarua woman, Amanda Healy, Kirrikin translates to ‘Sunday Best’. The kind of effortlessly elegant resort wear that dreams are made of, the label regularly works with contemporary Indigenous Australian artists, directly refunding each purchase to the featured artist involved in the design. An opportunity to find connection with the stories of her people, Amanda sees it as a privilege to work with amazing women that hold a deep understanding of their culture and country; citing that Kirrikin’s latest collection, ‘Pilbara’, is a celebration of the explosion of colour and life that appears after the rains, and what that has meant to the custodians of the Pilbara for centuries.
“The Capsule experience gives me the opportunity to tell the stories of my people and to show the gorgeous and vibrant colours of our country, but most importantly, this will allow our brand to be seen and heard. I am so appreciative of this opportunity, and it is amazing that DJ’s have taken this huge leap forward in profiling Indigenous brands. To me, it also means that I can find a larger audience for the brand, and therefore get money back to our wonderful artists and their communities.”
Amanda Healy of Kirrikin on what the First Nations Designer Capsule Collection means to her