Australia is brimming with creative talent. It seems like we discover new and amazing artists, musicians and designers every single day.
Our latest source of creative discovery is Australian Indigenous Fashion - an Instagram account that features upcoming Indigenous designers. If you're not already following it, you absolutely should. It's a page that gives these designers a platform to showcase the work and the stories behind their brands - and it's following is 45,000 strong so far.
Australian Indigenous Fashion was created to be a virtual ‘look-book’ that celebrates the thriving Indigenous fashion community. Giving these emerging talents a platform to help them connect with consumers and companies, leading to more economic opportunities for the Indigenous community and local businesses.
We spoke to the founder and creator of the platform Yatu Widders Hunt on her inspirations. Indigenous design traditions are more than 60,000 years old, with fashion and design critical to supporting reconciliation and building understanding. Yatu tells us more about her fashion platform and her hopes for the future of the fashion industry.
Tell me a little bit about the account Australian Indigenous Fashion?
The account is a curated one, that aims to celebrate and elevate the incredible work being done in the Indigenous fashion sector. We showcase established and emerging designers, Indigenous models, textile and visual artists, as well as images of our beautiful country to remind us that she is our inspiration and our anchor. We try to post every day and have a highly engaged and growing audience of over 40,000 people.
Why did you start this account?
I actually used to work as a freelance journalist and wrote a lot about the Indigenous fashion and design sector. I heard stories of Indigenous designers showing in New York and London and attended some Indigenous runway events. I couldn’t believe that the broader fashion media wasn’t talking about this thriving sector. I used to tell everyone about what I was seeing and hearing and I was often met with questions about ‘what Indigenous fashion was?’ I became so frustrated, I decided to put it on a page and show people how diverse and incredible the work was. I chose Instagram quite deliberately because it’s such a visual medium and I knew a lot of designers were starting to use the platform. We are also on Facebook, but Instagram really brought my ‘virtual lookbook’ idea to life!
What are you hoping to show people with your work?
I actually want people to get excited about Indigenous fashion and really recognise and embrace it as a part of our Australian fashion story. As we often like to say, the Indigenous Fashion industry has been around for more than 60,000 years. I also want people to understand how diverse our communities and stories are. It’s incredible to see different styles, palettes and design approaches from different parts of the country. It’s such a beautiful, gentle and accessible way to start a national conversation about and with Indigenous Australia.
How do you connect with and find new designers and creators to feature?
I actually find them on Instagram mostly! That was one of the reasons I chose Instagram as a primary platform, because it’s actually where I found so many designers, models and artists. When I need to relax, or need a break from work, I often scroll through Instagram searching for new designers to feature. We are an incredibly supportive community, so designers I work with will often tag me on other images they love and now I have people from all over the country sending me pictures and letting me know about exciting new initiatives.
What do you love about fashion as a creative medium?
I think fashion is a great way to tell stories and to keep our stories alive. Indigenous fashion is always about so much more than just the aesthetic. It carries so much in it and that makes me feel connected and proud of the pieces I’m wearing. Fashion is something that most of us enjoy and it’s really accessible, so I love that that storytelling tradition can actually be a thread that brings us all together. I would also say that as a young Indigenous person growing up in Sydney, fashion was also a great medium for me to explore my own identity and contemporary identity. It can be hard to navigate many worlds and to find your place and voice, so I think that fashion really helped me do that.
What would you like to see more of in the fashion industry?
I would like to see more acknowledgment of the wealth of knowledge Indigenous designers hold. Our modern industry is focused on more sustainable approaches and slow fashion and that’s something that Indigenous designers are experts in. It’s such a strong cultural value for us, that we always design and create with Country in mind and have been walking in concert with the natural world forever. It’s funny to hear people say that sustainable fashion is the new way forward, when we would say it is actually a return to the way things have always been. There is so much that our fashion community can share, teach and inspire – so I’d really love to see more opportunities for learning and collaboration.
What does the future of fashion look like to you?
In the future, I would love to see an Australian fashion community that is proud to see itself as part of the world’s oldest continuous tradition of design. That is something uniquely Australian and something which should inspire us all. The future of fashion is also one that fosters collaboration and knowledge exchange, because I think that we can learn so much from each other, but we can also create so much beauty together. Fashion will continue to play a role in building and shaping the Australian narrative and showcase who we are and what we believe in. I think there’s an incredible role for Indigenous designers to lead some of that work and to really help to shape how our industry moves forward.