Australian fashion is a vast landscape of talent, there is no ignoring this fact. At RUSSH, we are consistently trying our best to champion our Australian fashion industry in the way that it deserves. Australian Afterpay Fashion Week 2021 saw myriad of First Nations designers offer sprawling collections that represent our vast pool of talent, one which First Nations designers are at the forefront of. Hailing from all over the country, making clothing that honours their roots and their country is a myriad of multidisciplinary Indigenous designers changing the way we experience Australian fashion. Below, we’ve rounded up 10 of our favourite First Nations designers.
Luxury resort wear that features artworks from contemporary Indigenous Australian artists. Kirrikin is an aboriginal word that roughly translates as “Sunday’s best clothes”, part of the language recoded by missionaries visiting the Hunter Valley in the early 1820’s, Kirrikin is part of the Wonnarua language revitalisation. Kirrikin sources artists from around Australia to curate each range communicating message and intent with prints that are produced onto sustainable luxury fabrics. With an expansive offering of resort wear, swimwear and accessories, you’re bound to find the right print and cut for you.
NORTH works with remote community art centres around Australia to develop products that are both visually beautiful and high in quality. Their fabric is also designed by remote Indigenous artists allowing the Australian community to connect with the indigenous artists NORTH collaborates with. NORTH’s prints are tonal, intricate, and available in multiple cuts, as well as home textiles, and are committed to minimising their environmental impact. NORTH is also a part of the Indigenous Art Code of Ethics and ensure transactions of art and money are conducted in a way that empowers artists.
Lyn-Al Young is a young Gunnai, Wiradjuri, Gunditjmara and Yorta Yorta fashion designer and artist. Each piece created is founded on the tree carvings, symbolic markings, waterways, totems and landscapes of Young’s four ancestral lands. Best recognized for her draped, water-like silks produced in earthy, prints, Young’s designs are well-loved in the Industry, and we can see why.
The most vibrant of collections. Lore The Label by Shannon Brett is an explosion of colour and heritage. The artist behind Lore, Shannon Brett is an interdisciplinary artist and a descendant of the Wakka Wakka, Butchulla and Gurang Gurang clans of southern Queensland. Brett focuses on issues through art and practice that are close to heart: the survival, integrity and humility of Indigenous peoples.
Working closely with Indigenous artists and creatives, drawing inspiration from Country to present within the context of contemporary fashion, Maara Collective was launched in 2019, by Yuwaalaraay Creative Director Julie Shaw. With every product purchased, the brand gives back proceeds to support digital training and education in remote Aboriginal communities through the Buy1 Give1 program. Luxury resort wear that blends traditional techniques with modern silhouettes.
Producing merch with a meaning and encouraging folks to wear their values on their tee. Clothing The Gaps aims to influence and unite people through fashion and causes so that Aboriginal people and Communities can thrive. The label, which is profit for purpose-driven, is managed by health professionals who support Victorian Aboriginal health promotion and education programs with 100 per cent of its profits.
We first discovered Liandra Swim at AAFW 2021, where Indigenous designer Liandra Gaykamangu sent models down the runway clad in vibrant, streamlined silhouettes with dreamy cover ups floating over top. Gaykamangu originates from Australia’s Arnhem Land, and in her modern, flattering swim cuts, often translates dot art onto prints, honouring her heritage.
For those with an affinity for statement accessories, this one is for you. Created by proud Wiradjuri woman Kristy Dickinson, Dickinson offers bold, playful, statement-making jewellery that celebrates and honours Indigenous culture—imbuing a sense of empowerment and joy within everybody who wears it, and working important political messaging into her designs, too.
Wiradjuri woman Denni Francisco's Ngali is a melbourne based label that heavily features printed silk silhouettes from First Nations visual artists to create designs which are applied to airy tunics, scarves and breezy button-ups. Ngali first showed at AAFW in 2021, and creates purposeful wearable art for any occasion.
Ngarru Miimi is a slow ethical fashion label handprinted, designed and created on Wiradjuri country by Wiradjuri Gangulu Yorta Yorta woman Lillardia Briggs-Houston. Impressively, Briggs-Houston produces all of her own textiles and garments by hand, where her craftsperson ship can be recognised for what it is, with each piece rooted in cultural integrity and sustainable values.