Indigenous designers in Australia have a long history of being overlooked, which is not surprising given the history of discrimination and oppression indigenous people have faced in Australia, something that they still must deal with today.
The Australian fashion scene is no different. The industry and the public highlight and support very few indigenous designers. Especially compared to their white counterparts. But indigenous designers have been around, and a few are in the spotlight and getting the recognition they deserve.
Because of the First Nations Fashion and Design (FNFD) show during Australian Fashion Week, more indigenous designers have been given the opportunity to showcase their businesses. The FNFD is a platform that uplifted indigenous designers in the fashion industry.
Especially when there is a cultural appropriation in the industry that they must deal with. White designers make profits from selling clothing with Aboriginal artwork and prints, while groups who belong to the First Nations struggle to make sales, when they create authentic designs from their cultures that reflect their tribes respectfully and meaningfully.
First Nations Australians are indigenous peoples from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, who have occupied the country for millennia before colonization by the British.
Since Australian fashion week has arrived, we thought we’d shed some light on deserving indigenous designers who you can support.
Haus of Dizzy
Founded by Krist Dickinson, who is part of The Wiradjuri people, Haus of Dizzy is one of the few aboriginal brands that have gained international success. The jewelry brand was a way of making sartorial commentary through art, using phrases that come from the aboriginal community. Along with aboriginal art engravings. Her jewelry is part of who she is to the core. She describes it as “I feel like Haus of Dizzy is a representation of me, some spewed up in jewelry form.”
Liandra Gaykamangu uses her swimwear brand to uplift and honor aboriginal women who have made a positive impact on her life. Inspired by her Yolngu culture, which is visible in her designs. Liandra names each piece and design after the women who inspire her in YoIngu culture. An example of how she wants to use her platform to tell stories positively about her people.
“I’ve always been drawn to and inspired by traditional weaving techniques and string work practices” says Julie Shaw, part of the Yuwaalaraay clan- who started Maara Collective. Growing up, she always knew that fashion design was the route she’d take. She studied fashion design at the University of Technology in Sidney. Just recently, Maara Collective won 2 awards at the National Indigenous Fashion Awards. She’s making waves in the luxury space with her resort wear and continues to urge fellow Australians to support indigenous designers.
Harold Bowen from Hopevale Art Centre
Dedicated to commemorating the massacre and forced removal of their children in the 20th century. Using textiles and design, to tell the history of the Guugu Yimdhirr people. The Centre has multiple designers who each have their own way of portraying the resilience of the Guugu Yimmdirr tribe.
Denni Francisco, a Wiradjuri woman, created Ngali, which meqaans “we” in multiple aboriginal languages. A silk print label that just had their first fashion show at Australian Fashion Week (AFW) 2021. The label is about making “wearable art” that can be worn anywhere, by everyone. The brand is focused on being sustainable. Ngali also has an initiative dedicated to donating money towards teaching children in rural aboriginal communities IT and literacy skills.
There are so many more indigenous designers who have been part of AFW. The talent in these communities is endless and the world will continue to hear about them in the coming years.