Wednesday morning’s presentation by First Nations Fashion + Design (FNFD) was one such show; a runway of “firsts” that transcended trends and marked a significant step towards Indigenous visibility in the Australian fashion industry. It showcased a line-up of seven deadly First Nations designers, a cast of First Nations models, and a First Nations production and back-of-house team.
The mood was set with a sculptural installation of native Australian florals and grass by Libby Emerson of e SQUARED Design, and a soundscape of trickling water and chirping birds. World-renowned musician and didgeridoo player William Barton followed by hip hop artist DRMNGNOW took the stage, and dancers Luke Currie-Richardson and Cleopatra Pryce responded with fluid and mesmerising movement.
The fashion was rich and vibrant - a medley of traditional prints, striking slogans, stand-out swimwear, easy activewear and swishy silks and linens, created by Indigenous labels Grace Lillian Lee, AARLI, Amber Days, NUNGALA Creative, Sown in Time, NGARRU MIIMI and Clair Helen.
To close the show, electronic duo Electric Fields performed “From Little Things Big Things Grow” with a soulful and stirring vocal by Zaachariaha Fielding. Originally released by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody, the song tells the story of the Gurindji people’s struggle for equality and land rights after the walk-off at Wave Hill in 1966. Notably today's show took place on the eve of the 29th anniversary of the Mabo decision and made history once more - a moment, yes, but also an important piece of the broader movement for Indigenous rights and recognition in Australia.
The models returned to the runway en masse for a powerful finale, stopping to pass sand from their hands. The whole room rose for a standing ovation, tears flowing and an energy for change reverberating around the room. Long may that energy live on.