Australian Indigenous Fashion
Yatu Widders Hunt’s career has already been vast and her accomplishments many. As a communications and media consultant, she has spent the last decade working in both Government and NGO sectors. As a writer, she works on a freelance basis producing blogs and copy. More recently, she has gained widespread acclaim for her Australian Indigenous Fashion account on Instagram. It’s a space that highlights Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fashion and accessories designers, print makers and artists. She was a judge for this year’s National Indigenous Fashion Awards (NIFA) and continues to be a leader across multiple industries. We were lucky enough to speak with her about advocacy, being a master of many trades and her vision for the future.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Yatu Widders Hunt and I am a proud Dunghutti/Anaiwan woman. My family is originally from north western NSW, but I was born and raised in Sydney. I definitely grew up in a very political household with a keen sense of social justice from a young age. The thing I was always most fascinated by was the storytelling element of advocacy. It showed how you could change hearts and minds in ways that were creative, but that also elevated on important issues.
Your amazing Instagram account has gained such a large following. Did you expect Australian Indigenous Fashion to reach so many people when you first started it?
Not at all! I honestly just started it as a bit of a hobby as it was something I was really passionate about. I used to work as a journalist and cover some of these stories. It was baffling how little attention this thriving fashion sector was getting. I wanted to share stories, connect people and have fun. How much it has grown has actually been very overwhelming. I am also overwhelmed at how well it has connected with big media outlets, fashion communities and other Indigenous peoples and communities.
Your curation on Instagram shows a strong creative vision. Have you always been interested in fashion and the arts?
I would say that I have always been a very creative person and loved writing, music and storytelling as a child. It’s also very much a part of Aboriginal culture and is a bit of an anchor for us. Creativity is how we share information and connect with others. I would also say that for me, growing up off Country in a big metropolitan city, it was hard to find spaces and things that spoke to my Aboriginal experience. Fashion and other forms of creative expression really resonated with me and helped me to articulate my place in the world. We often talk about walking in many worlds as Aboriginal people and creative outlets certainly help me navigate that.
You also have an ongoing career in communications and policy. Has this work informed your creative interests at all?
Absolutely. I think the worlds very much intersect. Communications is so much about creativity. I think my professional life has really challenged me to think more creatively and develop campaigns, approaches and ideas, that are also engaging. The policy and research side of my work also helps me to better understand and explore the issues that are affecting our communities in more depth. I truly believe that understanding these issues from many angles actually helps you to deliver better creative work, that is anchored in truth.
It might be hard to choose, but who are a few of your favourite Indigenous brands and designers right now?
I definitely fall in love with new labels every week! However, some of my favourites at the moment include MAARA Collective who really drive collaboration with other Indigenous artists. They also make the most striking resort wear. I also love Ngali, a Melbourne label that makes the most elegant silk dresses and wintery knits. For the warmer months, I am a huge fan of Liandra Swim. They make vibrant, colourful and sustainable swimwear which just pops in the water.
We’ve read you started the Aus Indigenous Fashion account because you were frustrated with the lack of Indigenous designers being celebrated and promoted in the mainstream. Since starting the account, have you noticed any progress in this area?
I absolutely have seen a change. The fact that the National Indigenous Fashion Awards are being held in Australia for the first time this year is testament to that. We’ve also seen major brands lead collaborations such as Gorman’s collaboration with Mankaja Arts. Other big fashion brands like Country Road are using their social platforms to share Indigenous storytelling. Things are slowly changing for the better and I think it’s very exciting to see.
What is your vision for the future, both in the Australian fashion industry, and in your own career?
I would hope to see more and more pathways for Indigenous designers to establish, expand and grow businesses and enterprises. I would also like to see us celebrate Indigenous fashion more publicly. It is so much a part of the fabric of who are as a nation and one of the oldest, continuous traditions of design. I think there is so much the industry can learn from the Indigenous fashion community about sustainability, collaborative design and many other things!
Yatu was speaking with Katharine Ahearn