Cindy Rostron opened Ngali's debut solo show for the brand's Resort 2024 collection at AAFW on Wednesday morning. She wore a watery knee length dress, swaths of what appeared to be hand dyed silks rippled around her as she moved into the show space to a soundscape of a string instrumental rendition of Dreams by The Cranberries, mixed with communal singing and sounds of nature.
This set the tone for what was to come, and as the first First Nations designer to show solo at AAFW, the moment felt weighted with magic and meaning. It was an elevated display of the moments we saw from the brand last year. Modest cuts of silks and cottons were printed with watercolour-like dyes and motifs that evoked the flora and fauna of the Australian landscape. Silk wraps were layered over contrasting patterns, on the neck and tied at the waist, building on fluid shift dresses and silky collared button down shirts.
Amongst a cast of First Nations models, Samantha Harris and Elaine George joined Rostron, cloaked in silks that mirrored the softness of the energy. A stand out look was a cotton t-shirt layered with printed trousers and an accompanying knotted sash of the same fabric, paired with bone coloured boots that had been hand painted with gum leaves, leaving us thinking of collaboration and what it means to founder and Wiradjuri designer Denni Francisco.
“‘Together we create’ is not just our brand motto; it’s a way of being,” she notes. It can be felt in the atmosphere, this cultivation of community, and seen, of course, in the pieces on display. The show incorporates the works of five other Indigenous creatives in the show’s footwear, millinery, and accessories.
“Ngali’s process is to present fashion that shows respect, is polite, considered, gentle to Country, and shows honour to the cross-country collaborations we have with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives.”
Celebrating the diverse landscape of her Wiradjuri country, Francisco named the collection Murriyang, or “skyworld” in the Wiradjuri language, which was felt through the lightness of the silks and an airy colour palette, where tones of cream, pale blue, peaches, dusty pinks and greys evoked the sky above.
As the show closed out, we were left sitting with emotions as we reflected on the deep significance of Francisco's debut. What an honour it was to witness the first solo First Nations designer show at AAFW, and celebrate Ngali and all the brand does for community and country. What's next for the brand? We look forward to finding out.