This year’s Australian Fashion Week has been one marked by exciting – and long overdue – firsts. Yesterday, we saw the first ever all-First Nations fashion show with First Nations Fashion + Design showcase which was a joyful and rousing runway that left audiences feeling elated and excited. Today, the celebration of Indigenous designers continued with the Indigenous Fashion Projects (IFP) show which served to confirm the immense talent of the showing designers and richness of Indigenous culture and heritage.
A program of the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation, IFP featured six First Nations designers that are all actively growing fashion brands and are part of the IFP Pathways Program supported by David Jones. The Pathways Program was created with the aim of opening up opportunities for Indigenous labels through direct mentorships with the department store’s established Australian designers.
Julie Shaw of Maara Collective was mentored by Charlotte Hicks of Esse Studios and Kit Willow of KitX, Natalie Cunningham of Native Swimwear was mentored by Becky Cooper and Bridget Yorston of Bec + Bridge, Denni Francisco of Ngali was mentored by Mary Lou Ryan and Deborah Sams of Bassike, Liandra Gaykamangu of Liandra Swim was mentored by Bianca Spender, Nancy Pattison of Indii was mentored by Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning of P.E Nation and Amanda Healy of Kirrikin was mentored by Adrian Norris and Edwina Forest of Aje.
With the audience featuring such people as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Adam Goodes it was also one of the hottest tickets in the Australian Fashion Week schedule. Opened with a powerful Acknowledgement of Country by Aunty Ann Weldon from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, a whimsical atmosphere was conjured by the set design which included lilies on the runways and soft lighting.
The collections were made-up of clothing, swimwear and activewear that not only incorporated millennia of ancient stories and culture into their contemporary designs, but were highly wearable pieces that would elevate your wardrobe. Think: vibrant fuschia one-pieces, long flowing silk dresses with colourful prints that draw upon Aboriginal dot painting techniques and monochrome suit sets that could take you from the boardroom to the bar.
The show was styled and curated by Perina Drummond, the founder of Indigenous modelling agency, Jira Models. Talking to marie claire before the show, she noted the personal significance of putting such a show together. “Growing up in a remote Indigenous community, I dreamt of working in fashion and on runways,” she told us. “So to be able to curate a show for AAFW is a dream come true! More so, to be curating a show featuring some of Australia’s most prominent Indigenous fashion labels is mind-blowing!”
Furthermore, Drummond explained that their aim was to centre the talents of the community and emphasise its multiplicity. “Our vision for the show is to hero and celebrate diversity in many forms,” she explained. “Through design, colour, movement and talent. We want our runway to showcase the breadth of talent from right across Australia with these prominent indigenous fashion designers – Australia’s next up and coming”
Crucially, Drummond said that it’s meaning extends beyond the glamour of the runway. “It’s a major milestone moment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture as it platforms our art and heritage on the main stage for a national and global audience,” she said. “It also paves the way for future First Nations art and fashion generations, providing them with a legacy to own.”