An exciting array of fashion projects is providing a platform for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers to showcase their talent this year.
Here’s your guide to where you can watch the latest collections being unveiled. Worried that you wont be able to get there? While there’s nothing like the real thing, Covid-safe festivals mean you can catch it all live, online!
Sydney – June
The biggest fashion events in the country are embracing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fashion designers. Australian Fashion Week (now renamed Afterpay Australian Fashion Week) has announced that for the first time it is partnering with First Nations Fashion + Design, a not-for-profit organisation run by designers Lillian Grace Lee and TS Collishaw (Aarli), to showcase their own work and that of six other indigenous fashion designers. They’ll be joined on the main stage by labels: Amber Days by Corina Muir, Clair Helen, Ngarru Miimi by Lillardia Allirra Briggs-Houston, Keema Co by Nickeema Williams, Nungala Creative by Jessica Johnson and Sown in Time by Lynelle Flinders. For the first time (!) Fashion Week will open with a Welcome to Country.
Darwin – August
Country to Couture, a fashion show that takes place in Darwin every year, is the one that got the ball rolling in merging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander textiles, designs and garment making. It’s a fashion spectacle that’s been taking place alongside the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair since 2016. If you’re planning to be in the Top End over the weekend of 6-8 August 2021, this is not-to-be-missed!
“Come and engage with the contemporary creations of the oldest continuous living culture in the world.”– darwinfestival.org.au
To recognise such an abundance of talent imbued with 60,000 years plus of culture, the first National Indigenous Fashion Awards were held during the 2020 Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair. Maara Collective‘s Julie Shaw was the inaugural winner of the Fashion Designer Award from a field of top-ranking finalists including Liandra Gaykamangu (Liandra Swim), Denni Francisco (Ngali) and Cheryl Creed who went on to become the first Aboriginal fashion designer to showcase her Murrii Quu designs during during Milan Fashion Week. Announcements will be made in the next couple of months about this year’s finalists.
Cairns – August
The much heralded Cairns Indigenous Art Fair included a model mentoring and Indigenous fashion runway in 2020, that culminated in the Water is Sacred fashion spectacular, screened on NITV and live streamed by Cocktail Revolution on Facebook. It’s entire online programme was accessed by more than 2.5 million devices in 85 countries.
This year, the CIAF will also be held in August at the end of the month, spanning six eventful days between Tuesday 17 and Sunday 22 August.
Inspired by CIAF’s 2021 Art Fair theme, Sacred, Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fashion designers will convey cultural and historical stories about their land and the responsibility of caring for Country through wearable art, design, music and performance.
“…Indigenous fashion designers will convey cultural and historical stories about their land and the responsibility of caring for Country through wearable art, design, music and performance.”-Cairns Indigenous Art Fair
Queensland’s Indigenous fashion designers will convey cultural and historical stories about their land and the responsibility of caring for Country through wearable art, design, music and performance.
Melbourne – October
Since 2012 the the Global Indigenous Runway has been a fixture on the Melbourne Fashion Festival and Melbourne Fashion Week. It includes indigenous designers from around the world, alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers. Due to Covid its last runway was in 2020 and it should return when live runways and international travel resume.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fashion art featured in the Melbourne Fashion Festival in March 2021 and is expected to make a return during Melbourne Fashion Week in October this year.