Yesterday amongst a set of larger than life water lilies, six of the nation’s up and coming Indigenous designers made their mark on Australian Fashion Week for the first time.
A partnership between David Jones and the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation (DAAFF), the Indigenous Fashion Projects runway was curated by Perina Drummond, showcasing the collections from MAARA Collective, Native Swimwear, Ngali, Liandra Swim, Indii Swimwear and Kirrikin. These on the rise designers are part of our Pathways Program, an ongoing initiative that’s committed to working towards a more inclusive fashion industry.
Established last year, the Pathways Program was created to support First Nations designers through business development and cultural exchange. Pairing each of the brands with established Australian designers, the group met face to face at David Jones’ Elizabeth Street flagship for a dose of pre-show mentorship.
Held on Gadigal Country of the Eora Nation, the runway paid homage to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from across Australia, celebrating their unique stories and journeys, rich cultural heritage and innovative designs. Opening the show with a Welcome to Country was Aunty Ann Weldon. A proud Wiradjuri Koori balaagan and an elder of New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, Ann spoke of the significance of coming together on Reconciliation Week and Mabo Day, imparting a powerful message of ‘Always was, always will be.’
Named after designer Nancy Pattison’s daughter, Indii is a love letter to native flora, Country and the sea. With mentorship provided by P.E Nation designers Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning, Nancy’s runway debut was all about show-stopping swimwear in nature’s most mesmerising hues.
“The show was amazing. To finally see my swimwear on the runway, I’m so grateful for the opportunity.”
Nancy Pattison, designer behind Indii
A proud Wonnarua woman, Kirrikin’s Amanda Healy has been redefining luxury resort wear since 2014. With yesterday’s runway collection seamlessly moving from vibrant to ethereal, Kirrikin’s message was clear, this is the realm of statement pieces. Mentored by Aje’s Adrian Norris and Edwina Forest, look to Kirrikin when packing for your next adventure up north.
With an artistic practice rooted in designer Julie Shaw’s indigenous heritage and inherent creativity, Maara Collective’s Resort ‘22 collection delivered on its signature of polished summer staples. Named after the many hands involved in the creative process, Maara works to echo the embrace of Gunimaa (Mother Earth) with a free-flowing design philosophy; a match made in heaven with mentors Charlotte Hicks (Esse Studios) and Kit Willow (KitX).
Eco-conscious and ethically minded, Liandra Swim was founded with the vision to educate and celebrate the resilience, brilliance and versatility of Aboriginal Australia. Designed by Liandra Gaykamangu, each look told a powerful story through print, balancing references to Indigenous dot painting with of the moment silhouettes. Mentored by Bianca Spender, Liandra Swim is one to watch if you love a contemporary take on tradition.
“The Pathways Program has been very helpful in terms of understanding the fashion industry and also building my network. I mean, I got you as my mentor and you’ve been so good because you’ve given me honest feedback. Being able to see your studio made me think ‘okay, this is what I’m working towards’. It was so special to be there.”
Liandra Gaykamangu of Liandra Swim talks to mentor Bianca Spender on the importance of The Pathways Program.
The first Aboriginal fashion designer to be invited to New York Fashion Week, Natalie Cunningham is a woman with a clear vision. Working with Indigenous artists and the Warlu Art Centre, Native Swimwear is a 100% Aboriginally owned and operated label. Inspired by Aboriginal culture and the experience of the female body changing through motherhood, Native Swim is your answer for swimwear that doubles as ready to wear. With mentors Becky Cooper and Bridget Yorston of Bec + Bridge, expect to see big things from this brand.
Mentored by Mary Lou Ryan and Deborah Sams of Bassike, designer Denni Francisco’s Ngali marries the perfect balance of sleek shapes with prints that celebrate Country. With the ambition of creating pieces that are simultaneously gentle and respectful, Ngali’s Resort ’22 collection confirmed that these wardrobe staples are anything but ordinary.
The Front Row
From AFL legends to Australian tastemakers, it-girls and more – the star-studded front row spoke volumes about the talent on display.
To celebrate the Indigenous Fashion Projects runway and the ongoing initiative of the Pathways Program, discover the collections in the window at our Elizabeth Street flagship store.