Aboriginal Fashion Designers
We first spotted Lyn-Al’s designs on the Global Indigenous Runway at VAMFF in 2016. Fast forward and this month Lyn-Al is the first of the newly emerging Aboriginal designers to have her work showcased by David Jones in their Melbourne and Sydney city stores. Lyn-Al is a proud descendant of the Gunnai, Wiradjuri, Gunditjmara and Yorta Yorta nations. Using a process she calls fasheaming, Lyn-Al embraces her heritage and culture to create her vibrant designs.
You design one-off wearable hand painted silk art pieces. Clearly, there’s a strong element of culture in your designs. How’d you get started?
I’ve always been designing, especially from the age of eight. At ten I use to make handbags with Aboriginal fabrics and beads on them . When I was twelve, I started selling them at Aboriginal markets around Melbourne. As a kid I used to dress up in my cultural dress and painted pieces. Fashion has always been a part of my life. In high school I studied fashion and then straight after I set up the business as I already knew I wanted to be a fashion designer and artist. I wanted to represent and celebrate my culture through my designs.
Had you considered other lines of work or career before designing?
When I was two I wanted to be a sprinter. I was inspired by Cathy Freeman. She was a massive influence and role model for me. I was really into athletics and netball. But ever since I was little, fashion was always meant for me. It’s always been in my family as I have family members who are designers. My great Aunts were artists and textile designers. Mum and dad are both artists. So I grew up in a very creative environment. My family has always been entrepreneurial, artistic and extremely supportive.
What has been the hardest part of launching yourself into the fashion industry?
I started my business straight after high school so apart from selling my work at markets, I hadn’t had a job before. There were some bullies in the industry who I came across. Through that I learned a lot about myself and other people and how they can be. I learned about what I don’t want to be and how I don’t want to behave as a designer and person in the fashion industry.
Culture & Identity
Your designs are about culture and identity and are very popular. Can you explain why they have resonated so much with young women at this time?
Every design is based on cultural values. I create in the spirit of protection and peace.
I want to respect the sacredness of a woman’s body in my designs. Women seem to have responded so well to this. People have commented that they feel safe in my garments or they feel good and happy. That means a lot.
While they like the look of the designs, they also feel something behind the artwork, from all cultures, not just indigenous. I want to help change those barriers that fashion has caused and open a new door to what fashion can do for women.
Women’s strength, dignity and rights underpin a lot of your work. Where does this passion come from?
My mum, aunties, nan. They’re such strong women, but so humble and graceful with such quiet strength. They don’t say much but they stand up for anything that they need to. Always walking with grace, they have an amazing but understated style and quiet confidence. Growing up with these role models in my family has inspired me to be a strong feminine woman and to be proud of being a woman and my femininity. My nan is always dressing up. She’s 81 now but she’s always super glamorous and super strong as well. You can be girly and strong.
Carlton Football Club
Your design of the Carlton Football Club’s Indigenous Round guernsey met with a lot of excitement and was very well received. Your re-imagining of the Carlton Football Club logo was incredibly popular. What’s your favourite bit of feedback on this design (and why).
A lot of people said that it wasn’t like any of the other guernseys that they had seen, that it was very textural and there was extra depth. It was the very first guernsey that had ever been from a silk painting as usually it’s from acrylic. With the logo, not everyone liked it. Some club supporters thought that they should never change the logo. However, others did like it. It was so symbolic to my family, representing my grandfather and boomerangs that my grandfathers’ made.
For people to really respond well and for it to be used during NAIDOC week in the Carlton media was really cool. The football world was a very different experience for me. I really enjoyed it. The Carlton team were amazing to work with. Really great people.
#Check out the video of Lyn-Al’s work with the Carlton Football Club here.
David Jones is stocking your range in their Elizabeth St Sydney and Bourke St Melbourne stores. Congratulations, and for being named the inaugural David Jones emerging designer! Tell us about your latest limited-edition collection, ngu-ng-ga-dhaany.
It’s been such an incredible experience so far. Tying into the theme of NAIDOC, because of that we can celebrate Aboriginal women. I wanted to create a collection to acknowledge my family and the women in my family as well as all women.
Ngu-ng-ga-dhaany means carrier in my mother’s language. Women carry their children, their families, their stories, history, country and they also carry themselves. My mum, aunties and nan carry themselves with dignity, poise and grace. Through the textures that I have created, the silks represent basket weaving and the colours represent different aspects of a woman. I mean like humility, honesty and nurturing. These attributes connect back with the land and the different parts of the land – the earth, the water, the sky.
How will you be able to use this platform to promote your values and inspire other young designers.
David Jones are going to help develop my program that I’ve been doing for years with my mum. It’s called Fasheaming which means fashion dreaming. Dreaming is about our traditional indigenous stories of creation. Fasheaming is about creating your dreams so they come true, setting goals and achieving your own Fasheams. It’s done by expressing goals onto creative works such as painting silks, jewellery, even photo shoots.
We build confidence and positive body image by speaking about these things together and sharing our experiences. Storytelling is such an important part because in indigenous culture is a very sacred time. It’s where we learn about our ancestors, country and history. This is also a time that we respect and we listen. With Fasheaming,, we all listen to one another’s stories and we grow closer to one another. We can also help support one another. Everyone has a unique story and it should be shared and celebrated. I hope I inspire and encourage other young women to be able to stand up and share their stories and be proud of who they are and where they come from.
Fasheaming is a big passion of mine. I travel around Victoria and would love to take the programme nationwide. We just did one with 20 young indigenous girls a couple of weeks ago and it was such an amazing time seeing the girls grow in confidence and having a lot of fun. I share my battles and how I’ve overcome them. Once they see my process they can really see themselves achieving as well.
Apart from DJ’s, how can people see your pieces to buy from you. (Are they stocked anywhere else?)
I’m only stocked at Christine Accessories on Flinders Lane. I’m working on an online store at the moment!
What’s in the pipeline for Lyn-al Young?
It’s been a pretty busy NAIDOC week but definitely building up the Fasheaming, creating a new collection and I will be having my first international show at the end of the year in Hong Kong as part of business of design week. We will be creating a collection for that and developing my brand. Also, as I’m an Artist as well, I’m doing some family art exhibitions.
This story has been updated since it was first published in 2018.