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 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.
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 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 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
Ella Noah Bancroft
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 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.
“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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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’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.
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.