…To Keep Your Eye On
It’s 2023 and First Nations fashion has only gone from strength to strength. Having taken Australian Fashion Week by storm in 2021, this year’s Afterpay Australian Fashion Week marked the first time that an Indigenous designer, Denni Francisco of Ngali, and an Indigenous Art Centre, Ikuntji Arts, had solo shows at the industry event. Both shows were met with a standing ovation.
Since then, it’s easy to see more and more Indigenous designers showcasing their creative talents at other industry showcases. With events such as Country to Couture at the Darwin Aboriginal Arts Festival, Cairns Indigenous Art Fair and Brisbane Fashion Festival, there is now a growing list of Indigenous fashion designers to keep your eye on!
Here are some of the rising deadly First Nations fashion designers and creatives in Australia right now.
If the Ikuntji Artists sound familiar it’s probably because you’ve seen some of their prints on the May 2022 cover of Vogue Australia. The group of artists from Haasts Bluff began utilising screen printing to translate their paintings onto textiles in 2016. The result was vibrant printed textiles depicting the artists’ personal ngurra (Country) and Tjukurrpa (Dreaming). They’ve showcased their prints at the First Nations Fashion + Design show during AAFW in 2022 and debuted their solo show at the annual event this year.
A Wiradjuri, Gangulu and Yorta Yorta multidisciplinary artist and fashion designer, Lillardia Briggs-Houston has been designing under her own name since 2019. She recently took out the gong for Fashion Designer of the Year at the fourth annual National Indigenous Fashion Awards in Darwin. Her designs have been adapted from traditional south-east Aboriginal cultural practices of carving, bush dyeing and weaving.
Yapa Mali is a wearable art label established by Ngiyampaa, Wangaaypuwan and Wiradjuri woman Maddy Hodgetts. Hodgetts has been an artist since she was 11 years old and continues to exhibit and sell her artworks across New South Wales. She launched her brand in 2022. Each garment tells a story of Country and is intended to be a teaching movement for the wearer.
Founded in 2018 by mother-daughter duo Lauren Jarrett and Melissa Greenwood, Miimi and Jiinda use fashion as a way to translate their hand-painted artworks into wearable stories. Using sustainable fabrics, their most recent collection Burraaba is all about their history and ancient myths of their culture.
Another family-run label, Kamara Swim was established by sisters Kirsty and Naomi when the latter was diagnosed with melanoma. The Gugu Badhun and Kutjala sisters began the brand to create awareness around sun protection. Their Brisbane based brand has become known for it’s vibrant, colourful floral prints or brightly coloured monograms.
A fashion label and social enterprise, House of Darwin was founded by former AFL player Shaun Edwards when he realised there was a need in his community. Profits are reinvested back into social programs in remote Indigenous communities, such as basketball team Darwin Dingoes and skate label Pass Port. The brand is known for it’s whimsical imagery, inspired by the Northern Territory, emblazoned across t-shirts and hats. You might catch their brand name but also Uluru, some salty plums and even a kangaroo on one of their t-shirts.
All images: Courtesy of each brand’s Instagram page. Featured Image: Miimi and Jiinda
About The Author: Emma Reuben
A digital native, Emma is a freelance writer
living and working on Noongar Country.
Hailing from Malaysia, Emma has contributed
to the National Indigenous Times, Popsugar,
Pedestrian TV, Fashion Journal, Healthline
and The West Australian, to name a few!