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Brand Spotlight
5 July 2022

Celebrating NAIDOC Week with 5 First Nations Designers

This year’s Indigenous Fashion Project at Australian Fashion Week celebrated 5 designers bringing culture and vibrancy to the world.

Every year, early July marks NAIDOC Week, a 7-day celebration recognising the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This NAIDOC week we’re shining a light on the 5 First Nations brands who were part of this year’s Indigenous Fashion Project Runway at AfterPay Australia Fashion Week. Get to know the designers and how they’re celebrating Indigenous creativity through fashion.

Words By Brittany Lyons

Kirrikin, By Wonnarua designer Amanda Healy

Amanda Healy is a proud Wonnarua Nation Woman, the traditional owners of the Hunter Valley region in NSW. She developed Kirrikin in late 2014 due to a frustration in the shortage of authentic Indigenous products, namely printed accessories and resort wear.

Kirrikin is a brand come social enterprise that digitally prints Aboriginal artwork onto luxurious fabrics like cashmeres and silks, which then become wearable garments like scarves and ties. Each Kirrikin collection will revolve around a handful of First Nation’s artists who showcase designs that tell a story around identity through exploring Aboriginal people, traditions and their land. Today Kirrikin collections span the luxury accessories and resort wear categories and are a cohort of spirited products that capture the essence of Aboriginal Australia.

‘Ripples’ is the title of Kirriki’s latest collection and debuted at the IFP’s runway at AAFW. Flowing dresses and tailored pieces showcasing the artwork of Gambangurr artist Helena Geiger and Yaawaalway artist Jessica Tedim were seen gracing the runway, worn by a selection of First Nations models.

Healy donates portions of the sale proceeds of each Kirrikin good to the First Nation’s creatives whose designs feature, as well as an extensive list of corporations that support Aboriginal Australians like Yirrigan Yorgas which support incinerated women at Bandyup prison in WA.

Kirrikin

Kirrikin, By Wonnarua designer Amanda Healy
Liandra Swim, By Yolngu designer Liandra Gaykamangu

Liandra Swim, By Yolngu designer Liandra Gaykamangu

Founded by Yolngu woman from East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, Liandra Swim seeks to fuse Aboriginal Culture with on-trend premium designer swimwear. Liandra Gaykamangu, founder, and Creative Director, built the brand as a means to create new ways to connect with culture.

With a focus on storytelling through prints and operating as a proudly sustainable and ethically minded operation, Liandra Swim is certainly a brand who holds intention and consideration within their brand DNA, and it shows.

The ‘Deep Blue’ collection was shown at the 2022 Indigenous Fashion Project Runway, and features one-pieces, bikinis and coverups which have left us excited for summer 2023! Inspired by the flourishing deep water eco-systems that reflect the connection and adaptation of Aboriginal communities throughout Australia, the predominately blue coloured separates are a triumphant example of modernised Indigenous prints that are exceptionally wearable and interchangeable with other pieces in your wardrobe.

You may notice that many of the pieces within the Deep Blue collection have been named after well-known First Nation’s Australian Women such as Cathy Freeman and Billie-Jean Hamlet. Gaykamangu has honoured a selection of inspirational women throughout the collection as they have all been a source of inspiration throughout the creative process.

Liandra Swim

MAARA Collective, By Yuwaalaraay designer Julie Shaw

Launched just a few years ago in 2019. MAARA Collective is an Australian Luxury Resort Wear brand founded by Yuwaalaraay Creative Director Julie Shaw, situated in Northwest NSW.

The brand’s name “MAARA Collective” refers to the Yuwaalaraay and Gamilaraay word for ‘hands’ which acknowledges and honours the ‘many hands’ involved in the creative and collaborative processes that go into the creation process for the brand. Working closely with Indigenous artists and creatives, each print and MAARA piece draws inspiration from country to present within the context of contemporary fashion.

MAARA is also a social enterprise, donating proceeds of each sale to sypport digital training and education in remote Aboriginal communities throughout Australia. This is carried out through their partnership with the Buy1 Give1 program.

Created in collaboration with Pitjantjatjara artist Alison Lionel from Ernabella Arts, MAARA’s Resort ’23 collection graced the IFP Runway at this year’s AAFW. Featuring ethereal prints and hues realised in flowy silhouettes, these separates were inspired by nature and landscape, especially how the light hits trees. Celebrating the first-ever menswear capsule for the brand, we were so excited to see a friend of Monde, Nathan McGuire, rocking the MAARA Resort ’23 Collection down the runway.

The collection is available for pre-order via the MAARA Collective website below.

MAARA Collective

MAARA Collective, By Yuwaalaraay designer Julie Shaw
Native Swimwear, By Biripi and Ngarabal designer Natalie Cunningham

Native Swimwear, By Biripi and Ngarabal designer Natalie Cunningham

Native Swimwear Australia was founded way back in 2012 by Eli and Natalie Cunningham. Natalie, is from the Nucoorilma/Ngarabal people from Tingha and Glen Innes and Biripi people from Dingo Creek in NSW while Eli is a Nughi (Moreton and Stradbroke Islands, QLD) and Woorimi (Forster, NSW).

This First Nations brand was born as a means to celebrate the longest-living culture in the world, to lead the way in sustainable swimwear and to create empowering pieces perfect for active and poolside glamour. Native Swimwear work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and community members to uncover authentic and meaningful works and incorporate them into each collection. Through the use of bold colour and visual prints, storytelling and ancient wisdom are passed onto each person who wears a Native Swimwear piece.

As the first Aboriginal fashion label in history to showcase at New York Fashion Week in 2015, Native Swimwear has propelled itself onto the world stage as a leading authority in Indigenous Fashion.

Creating both men’s and women’s swimwear, coverups and clothing with eco-friendly and sustainably-minded fabrics like those utilising ocean waste plastic, the mob at Native Swimwear are truly making a considered splash in the international swim scene.

Shop the latest collection produced in collaboration with Keturah Zimran from Ikuntji Artists in Haasts Bluff, west of Alice Springs, below.

Native Swimwear

Ngali, By Wiradjuri designer Denni Francisco

Translating to ‘we’ or ‘us’ in a handful of different Aboriginal languages, Ngali was created to bind together a harmonious, sustainable and equitable union of people through Country and one another. Founded by Wiradjuri designer Danni Francisco (native to NSW), Ngali operates as a women’s fashion label out of Naarm (Melbourne) and to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artworks through their collections of clothing and collectibles.

Each collection revolves around the artworks of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist with the motivation to celebrate the stories of their communities and bring the artwork to life via the medium of fabric and clothing. Inspired to create clothing that is versatile, sustainably made and that surpasses trends, Ngali goodies will surely become wardrobe favourites that will be with you for years to come.

As a proudly Indigenous-owned business, Ngali takes community responsibility sincerely. All achievements both monetary and via accolades are shared with the artists involved within collections, as well as the brand pledging for positive social change in communities through partnership with the Buy1 Give1 initiative.

Ngali’s latest collection shown at AAFW ‘ Nginha’, was adapted from artworks by Gija artist, Lindsay Malay and was created in the repeat to add strength to the softness of luxurious silks and move effortlessly across the body. You can shop the collection of wearable art via link below.

Ngali

Ngali, By Wiradjuri designer Denni Francisco
Tags

Amanda Healy, Biripi, Denni Francisco, Julie Shaw, Kirrikin, Liandra Gaykamangu, Liandra Swim, MAARA Collective, NAIDOC Week, Natalie Cunningham, Native Swimwear, Ngali, Ngarabal, Wiradjuri, Wonnarua, Yolngu, Yuwaalaraay

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