Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Fashion Designers

Republished from July 2019

Artists, Designers & their Labels

Aboriginal fashion designers are starting to hit their stride on Instagram and the world of fashion. Whether creating the prints for garments or actually designing the garments themselves, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and men are finally getting the creative and commercial attention they deserve. Meet some of the deadliest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fashion Designers and artists along with their fashion labels, who are starting to make their mark in the industry.

Meet the new generation of fashion designers with two things in common. First, their beautiful creativity and design talent and secondly – of equal importance – their Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identity. These creatives frequently use traditional processes and ethical manufacturing, to share their culture and history. Here’s some of the deadly creative talent emerging in the competitive world of Australian fashion and design.


Albertini Couture Evening Gown
This Albertini gown is a Kate Miwulku print from Babbarra Designs. @albertinicouture

Albertini is a couture label of one-off evening gowns designed by non-indigenous woman Adriana Albertini. The designer collaborates with Aboriginal artists from remote communities in the Northern Terrirtory. Fabrics are printed by each artist, then given back to Adriana, who develops each gown in a way that best incorporates the print. No two designs are alike and every piece identifies the artist.

Amanda Healy

Aboriginal Fashion designer Amanda Healy's label, Kirrikin

Kirrikin, an Aboriginal word that roughly translates to “Sunday’s best clothes”.  It’s also the name of a luxury resortwear brand. Kirrikin’s exclusive designs are created by a team of contemporary Aboriginal artists whose unique work is displayed on scarves, jewellery, clothing and swimwear.  Amanda Healy from the Wonnarua nation is the CEO and she’s passionate about addressing the shortage of authentic Aboriginal pieces available in Australia.

Arkie Barton

Arkie Barton

Arkie is bringing contemporary, vibrant and fun designs to the Australian fashion scene.  Designed by 24 year old Kalkadunga woman Arkie Barton, each piece is made with hand drawn prints and splashes of bright colours.  Arkie  sees fashion as a way of introducing people to her community. Made and sold in Brisbane.

Clair Helen

Clair Helen Aboriginal Designs

Clair Helen is a visual artist, fashion designer and graphic designer. But most proudly, she’s a Tiwi Islander. A reflection of her personal heritage and culture, her pieces feature unique textures and patterns. As an indigenous designer, her garments tell a story, all the while promoting sustainable practices.

Colleen Tighe Johnson

A Gomeroi woman from Northern New South Wales, Colleen Tighe Johnson has become one of the most sought after Aboriginal fashion designers. Her extraordinary, one-off creations are laced with dreamtime stories. Colleen works from home in country Tamworth. Her works are created in collaboration with many local Indigenous artists, many of whom are her relatives. Created in 2010, her label Buluuy Mirrii, meaning ‘black star’, will soon scale to commence commercial production.

Ella Noah Bancroft

Yhi designs

Sustainable, upcycled and 100% Indigenous owned. Yhi, meaning sun goddess in Gamilaroi, is the passion project of Ella Noah Bancroft. As a one-woman team, Ella takes second-hand garments, mostly t-shirts, and repurposes them with powerful statements. On top of this, Yhi isn’t just a label. Ella aims to educate and inspire women through a series of workshops that she runs. Ella is currently Cocktail Revolution’s Revolutionary of the Month.

Elverina Johnson

Aboriginal Fashion designer

Elverina Johnson isn’t only in fashion. She is a Gurugulu and Indinji Gimuy woman from Yarrabah in far north Queensland who is also a singer, songwriter, playwright, actor, photographer and artist. As an Aboriginal fashion designer, Eleverina’s pieces are essentially wearable art. The chosen colours, patterns and materials used depict the abundant beauty of her homeland.

Jaeden Williams

Desing by Aboriginal fashion designer Jaeden Williams
Photo: global Indigenous Management

“More hood than good” is the slogan of Aboriginal fashion designer Jaeden’s “Freshies” brand. Jaeden’s street wear designs feature  bold slogans in monochrome garments.  A Yalukit Willam and Boonwurrung man, Jaeden’s monochromatic collection features bold slogans and designs. In 2017, he showcased his line at the Global Indigenous Runway VAMFF.  Earlier this year he put on a Freshies Block Party, featuring a fashion parade, DJs and live graffiti.

Kristy Dickinson

Aboriginal fashion designer accessories

You might have seen her bold and playful earrings, or her slogans shining light on political, indigenous, environmental and feminist issues. Wiradjuri woman Kristy Dickinson started Haus of Dizzy back in 2015 and since then, her business has skyrocketed with a large online following. People just can’t get enough of her glittery, fun and equality-seeking ear candy.

Lisa Waup

Fashion design by Lisa Waup

Melbourne-based Gunditjmara and Torres Strait Islander, Lisa Waup is an artist whose connection with history and nature is essential to her work. Lisa’s signature visual and woven work utilises both traditional and contemporary methods. Her artwork explores themes of connection, identity and country. Lisa’s collaboration with fashion designer Ingrid Verner,  combining her line and geometric patterns and Verner’s relaxed silhouettes result in an eye catching, contemporary range of statement pieces that are both modern and traditional.

Lyn-Al Young

Aboriginal designer Lyn-al Young's designs

A proud Gunnai, Wiradjuri, Gunditjmara and Yorta Yorta woman, Lyn-Al has been designing since she was eight years old. Now 23, she heads her own label known for their one-off, bespoke pieces of wearable art. As an Aboriginal fashion designer, Lyn-Al notes that every one of her designs are based on cultural values, particularly protection and peace. Lyn-al was also featured as a Cocktail Revolution’s Revolutionary of the Month and you can read more here.

Peter Farmer and Kylie Graham

Chirriger prints are by Aboriginal artist Peter Farmer and Kylie Graham

Presented at the Telstra Perth Fashion Festival in 2017, Perth-based Peter Farmer and Kylie Graham  designed the unique patterns for the Chirriger Collection that was designed by Red Opium’s Sandra Rives. The combination of Sandra’s signature designs of passion and female sensuality and Peter and Kylie’s eye-catching and bold artworks brought the house down when it was unveiled at Perth’s Fashion Festival, led by Aboriginal model Samantha Harris. Tap here, to see more.

Simone Arnol

Aboriginal fashion designers Simone Arnol's designs

Connection to country, elders and traditional owners is imperative to Simone Arnol. As a Gunggandji artist and designer, her culture is intertwined with every aspect of her work. It’s seen in her earthy, natural colour palette to her commitment to sustainability. Her designs incorporate recycled and upcycled materials while her practice uses traditional dyes.

Magpie Goose

Magpie Goose designs

Magpie Goose partners with Aboriginal fashion designers, artists, photographers and textile designers from across Australia. Vivid and striking designs are then ethically made into wearable styles. Think A-line shifts, three quarter pants and comfy jumpsuits. Non-indigenous co-founders Maggie McGowan and Laura Egan work tirelessly to create economic opportunities with Aboriginal people as well as working hard to promote and celebrate Aboriginal culture and art. Magpie Goose also ranks highly in our list of clothing with a conscience.

Nancy Pattison  

Nancy Pattison designs- one of many Aboriginal fashion designers

Behind the laid back beachy swimwear brand Indii Swimwear is a talented Dunghutti woman from New South Wales. Aboriginal fashion designers are increasingly entering the swimwear space and Nancy Pattison has taken to it with open arms. Her gorgeous designs also aim to empower young Aboriginal women and girls which is also done through modelling opportunities and annual surfing programs. And for Nancy, giving back to the community that raised her feels like it’s what she’s “meant to be doing”.


Ngali - designs by aboriginal Fashion Designers

Ngali’s purpose is simple: “to tell the story of our country”. Fittingly, in a number of Aboriginal languages, “ngali” translates to “we.” And that’s exactly the backbone of this Aboriginal owned fashion label. Ngali is run by designer and founder Denni Francisco who collaborates with other Aboriginal artists, such as Lindsay Malay, to translate art into fashion. Their beautiful paintings, photography and other works are  transferred onto dresses, coats, tops, pants, scarves and even homewares.


North - By Tiwi Islander women

For North, it’s simply about sharing Australian made pieces featuring hand-screen printed fabrics and prints from artists from Pirlangimpi, Milikapiti and Wurrumiyanga, of the Tiwi Islands.  Produced entirely in the Tiwi Islands, it’s there that Torres Strait Islander fashion designers and artists come together to share their stories and connection to country. A not-for-profit label, their aim is to proudly preserve Aboriginal art.

Tap the link to see the winners of the inaugural National  Indigenous Fashion Awards, announced on August 5 2020.
To see more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders killing it in the fashion game, check out these deadly models.
To see more about Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Fashion Designers check out our
Q&A with Yattu Widders Hunt. To keep up with the indigenous fashion scene, visit AusIndigenousFashion.




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