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Take A Front Row Seat At The Country To Couture Runway

First Nations fashion night of nights
Foxxy Empire, Country to Couture, 2021, photo by Charlie Bliss

How do you move a crowd of a thousand fashion critics to their feet? 

First you enlist a Garramilla dance troupe to welcome guests to Larrakia Country. Next you showcase thirteen of the brightest, boldest and best First Nation fashion labels on local models who were cast after a social media call out. Then finally, you close a spectacular show with a drag performance of Lizzo’s ‘Juice’ under a blaze of disco ball reflections. 

Last night’s Country to Couture runway show – presented by the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation and Country Road – received a standing ovation from the crowd of fashion lovers, designers, artists, journalists and a little girl wearing a sparkly tutu and sneakers. 

The show featured 13 Indigenous designers from around the country and 35 models from across the Top End – some of which had never walked in a fashion show before.

Savannah Kruger wears Papulankutja Artists collaboration with Black Cat Couture, Country to Couture, 2021 (Credit: Charlie Bliss)

It was a night of inspiration, awe and much-deserved recognition for the First Nations fashion industry. 

Backstage, the Creative Director Perina Drummond (of Jira Models), head stylist Rhys Ripper and head stylist assistant Nina Fitzgerald, sent out look after incredible look. 

There were captivating prints from North Home Textiles with Injalak and Marrawuddi art centres; jean joy from Deadly Denim and Bobbi Lockyer; stylish streetwear from Dunjiba Fashions and Ku Arts; and glorious gowns from Numus Design by Naomy Briston. 

“My creativity is inspired by my spiritual connection to Country,” says Briston, a Larrakia woman and award-winning artist, whose daughter modelled her designs in the show. 

This is the beauty of First Nations fashion: the fusion of culture, creativity, community and family. 

Rhys Ripper and Nina Fitzgerald, Country to Couture, 2021 (Credit: Charlie Bliss)

While Briston cheered her daughter on, the little girl wearing a sparkly tutu and sneakers was in the crowd excitedly watching her adoptive mother walk the runway.  

For the past six years, the Country to Couture show has brought together families, artists and top tier talent in a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander textiles and design. 

And each year the applause gets louder. “I think the light that has been shone on Indigenous fashion right now is timely and we certainly have a space in the fashion [industry],” says Ngali designer Denni Francisco, who presented a collection at Country to Couture and took out the coveted Fashion Design Award at the National Indigenous Fashion Awards earlier in the week. 

This standing ovation is for you Denni – and all the First Nation creatives bringing beauty into the world. Bravo. 

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