After the conversations around the systemic injustice towards our First Nations Australians, events need to do a much better job at recognising and spotlighting our Indigenous creatives. Cut to this year’s Afterpay Australian Fashion Week which is not only being held on the same week as National Reconciliation Week but opens with the event’s first welcome to country performance by First Nations designer Grace Lillian Lee.
“Our practices and native landscapes have served as a great source of inspiration. Our people and our land continue to contribute to the growth and development of this nation,” Lee said in a statement.
“We aim to rewrite history by reclaiming our narrative of connection to country through fashion and design. Indigenous fashion is the future of the Australian fashion industry, and what an honour to be featured as the first Indigenous runway show at AAFW’s 25th Anniversary, amplifying Indigenous voices for the next generation and chapter in AAFW history.”
It’s a microwaveably warm change of pace for the Australian fashion industry which has been undoubtedly inspired by our First Nations peoples’ varied history, culture, and style for over 200 years. And, given that fact, it’s no surprise that the week also includes a First Nations Fashion + Design (FNFD) showcase on the eve of the anniversary of the Mabo Decision that aims to spotlight the deadly Indigenous Aussies reinventing the fashion game. Dear Camilla Franks, take notes.
So, with that little history lesson done, let’s get into it. Here are the seven deadly First Nations Aussie fashion designers who will be featured in the show and that you should be paying attention to.
Grace Lillian Lee
Grace Lillian Lee is a Carns-based First Nations designer who’s had her work showcased in San Francisco, New Zealand, Melbourne, and Sydney. Drawing inspiration from her Indigenous heritage, Lillian Lee uses her platform to engage young people from remote communities and create a platform for them to express themselves and take pride in their identity.
You can follow her work on Instagram @gracelilianlee.
AARLI is an Indigenous fashion label created by Nyikina, Bardi and Nyul Nyul woman TJ Cowlishaw. Her work has been on display at exhibits at Koori Heritage Trust, Melbourne, the State Library of Western Australia, the Bendigo Art Gallery, and the National Museum of Australia. So, art scholars and historians, listen up.
In 2017, TJ Cowlishaw designed and custom-made an eco-couture gown for Home and Away star Bonnie Sveen for the TV Week Logie Awards.
P.S. You can follow the brand on Instagram @aarlifashion.
Amber Days is a renowned First Nations-owned and designed kid’s clothing label inspired by the native bush, desert, and sea. And, perhaps, it might just be the first kids brand that I’ve wished I was small enough to wear.
Whether you’re a parent or adult child, you can be envious of the tiny human’s fits on Instagram @amberdays_thelabel.
Nungala Creative is a 100% owned First Nations Australian-owned fashion brand and creative communications agency that highlights Indigenous creatives and their prints, products, illustrations, and brands. It’s a damn beauty and got a distinct Indigenous Aussie voice thanks to its creator and proud Warumungu and Wombaya woman Jessica Johnson.
Their store includes a range of products, from greeting cards and pins to printed tees and patches to iron onto your clothes. You can check them out over on Instagram @nungalacreative.
Sown in Time
Sown in Time is a Cairns-based First Nations Australian label by Lynelle Flinders specialising in Indigenous hand-printed materials and furnishing. Her designs are a mainstay of runways.
You can follow her work on instagram @sownintime.
Ngarru Mimi is a slow fashion brand we can immediately get behind. Made on Wiradjuri Country by Wiradjuri, Yorta Yorata and Gangulu woman Lillardia Briggs-Houston, the brand is synonymous with ethically sourced and gorgeous linen tops and crops, textiles, and First Nations-inspired jewelry.
A small business label that investing in supports not only First Nations communities but helps stop the planet from dying? We love to see it.
Check her out on Instagram @ngarrumiimi.
Clair Helen is a Perth-based designer specialising in tulle, off-shoulder, and sleeveless gowns, and a stunning red and black visual display of a wearable Indigenous Australian flag. The First Nations Fashion + Design event marks the first time the proud Indigenous woman from Tiwi Islands will showcase her collection, and we can’t wait to watch it.
You can follow her work on Instagram @clairhelen.
The First Nations Fashion + Design (FNFD) showcase will be held at this year’s Afterpay Australian Fashion Week on the 2nd of June. You can learn more about it here.