Get to know the First Nations designers putting Indigenous creativity on the map.
In the next steps of the Indigenous Fashion Projects x David Jones Pathways Program, six First Nations fashion brands have been paired with established Australian designer mentors, supporting business development and cultural exchange. Often emphasising sustainability in their practices and supporting artisans that collaborate on their collections, there are many reasons why you’ll love them.
“We are incredibly proud to be a partner of the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation with the introduction of the Indigenous Fashion Projects x David Jones Pathways Program. The Pathways Program has been purpose-built to provide support to First Nations fashion designers in achieving their goals, with David Jones facilitating mentorships between Pathways designers and established Australian brands. I believe our industry has a responsibility to make space for more mentorship and cultural exchange to support the future success of Indigenous creative talent, and hope the Pathways Program has a meaningful impact on development for our participating designers.”
Bridget Veals, General Manager of Womenswear, Footwear and Accessories for David Jones
Named after the many hands involved in the creative process, Maara, from the Yuwaalaraay and Gamilaraay language group, is making luxury resort wear that’s rooted in designer Julie Shaw’s indigenous heritage and inherent creativity.
Designed by: Julie Shaw
Mentored by: Charlotte Hicks of Esse Studios and Kit Willow of KitX
If you like: Breezy, summer staples and wearing volume that still feels polished.
More reasons to love: Maxi dresses, wide-leg trousers and chic kaftans are just some of the essential pieces that flow and hang artfully on the body, echoing the embrace of Gunimaa (Mother Earth).
As the first Aboriginal fashion designer to be invited to New York Fashion Week in 2013, proud Birpi and Ngarabal woman, Natalie Cunningham works with Aboriginal artists and the Warlu Art Centre to create the breathtaking designs behind her 100% Aboriginally owned and operated label.
Designed by: Natalie Cunningham
Mentored by: Becky Cooper and Bridget Yorston of Bec + Bridge
If you like: Swimwear that can double as ready-to-wear.
More reasons to love: Inspired by Aboriginal culture and the experience of the female body changing through motherhood, these swimsuits and resort pieces are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists’ stories that meet fashion.
With a process of work that operates through the lens of Yindayamarra, a Wiradjuri word, Ngali is out to create fashion that shows respect, is polite, considered, and gentle to Country while showing honour to the cross-category collaborations with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives.
Designed by: Denni Francisco
Mentored by: Mary Lou Ryan and Deborah Sams of Bassike
If you like: Slip dresses, skirts and silk shirts that are anything but basic.
More reasons to love: The beauty of Ngali is its balance of perfect silhouettes (the T-shirt dresses are just-right slouchy) with prints that celebrate Country.
Founded with the vision to educate and celebrate the resilience, brilliance and versatility of Aboriginal Australia, Liandra Swim is the eco-conscious and ethically minded swimwear label committed to country. With original artwork by designer Liandra Gaykamang, each print shares a unique story.
Designed by: Liandra Gaykamangu
Mentored by: Bianca Spender
If you like: Honouring tradition – but with a twist.
More reasons to love: Dotted patterns are paired with unexpected designs and each swimsuit is named after an Indigenous woman the designer finds inspiring.
Inspired by the ocean and coastal landscapes of her country, swimwear designer Nancy Pattison is weaving her story with every design.
Designed by: Nancy Pattison
Mentored by: P.E Nation designers Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning
If you like: Unfussy swimwear shapes in ocean-inspired prints.
More reasons to love: Named after Pattison’s daughter, the slow fashion brand is a love letter to native flora, Country and the sea.
A proud Wonnarua woman, Amanda Healy developed Kirrikin, meaning ‘Sunday Best’, in 2014. With luxury resortwear collections featuring artworks of contemporary Indigenous Australian artists, every Kirrikin purchase is directly refunded to the featured artist involved in the design.
Owned by: Amanda Healy
Mentored by: Aje designers Adrian Norris and Edwina Forest
If you like: Unique prints no one else at the dinner party will be sporting.
More reasons to love: Roughly translating to ‘Sunday’s best clothes’, Kirrikin offers small pieces, like ties and scarves, as well as shirting and resort wear, coated in artworks of contemporary Indigenous artists.