Indigenous Fashion Projects is a program of the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation with an overtly commercial purpose. Design Within Country is a fashion label created to show fashion at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, featuring indigenous and local artists from the Marnin Studio. Design in the Country was originally created as a collection for a fashion show at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, and many artists and designers collaborated to bring it all together.
Designers Liandra Gaikamangu (Liandra Swim), Natalie Cunningham (Native Swim), Nancy Pattison (India Swimwear), Denny Francisco (Ngali), Julie Shaw (Maara Collective), Maara Collective) and Amanda Healy (Kirrikin) Kirrikin) pose with models Aboriginal fashion show. A model walks the runway in the Maara Collective by Julie Shaw.
Ngali is run by designer and founder Denny Francisco, who collaborates with other Aboriginal artists such as Lindsey Malay to bring art to fashion. The exclusive design of the luxury resort clothing brand is created by a team of contemporary Aboriginal artists whose unique work is featured in scarves, jewelry, apparel, and swimwear. As a result, Liandras signature prints and sleek designs offer an unrivaled fashion experience.
The participation of Aboriginal t-shirt designers in fashion shows and stores makes the fashion world more vibrant, inclusive, and diverse. The recent shift across the design community to support contemporary Aboriginal designers is a powerful step in the right direction. Australian fashion can be a dark and dark place for contemporary Aboriginal designers, who have long been seen as tending towards museum pieces with traditional ways of knowing, living, and designing.
At Australian Fashion Week, when attention finally turned to the early traditions of Australian design, the specter of appropriation was not far from the minds of designers. At Australian Fashion Week Sydney, Grace Lillian Lee hosted the event’s first runway show featuring local stylists, models, and in-house teams. This year, no fewer than 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers took part in two collective fashion shows and a student exhibition; Australian Fashion Week also hosted the Welcome to the Country Week opening and other panel discussions. Meet some of the deadliest Torres Strait Islander Aboriginal stylists, artists, and labels who stand out for their extraordinary creativity.
We’ve put together a list of 5 of our favorite Indigenous Australian designers that we want you to know about right now. From brands that empower Aboriginal Australians living in the backcountry of Australia to accessory artists making political decisions through the ears of their clients (literally), these are some of the best Indigenous-owned fashion brands in the country. Hailing from all over Australia, a clothing industry that honors its roots and Australia is full of multi-disciplinary local designers who are changing the way we perceive Australian fashion. It’s undeniable that Australia has some quite extraordinary designers at the forefront of a vibrant industry, but our attention (and hearts) are captured by the bold, vibrant, and intricate designs of our Indigenous people across the country.
The current scene is scattered across Australia, from outlying communities and art centers to emerging designers in the capitals, but slow fashion values are still there. The fashion industry has long drawn inspiration from Aboriginal cultures, but now the focus is shifting to brand ownership. Arches bring modern, vibrant, and fun designs to the Australian fashion scene.
From Aboriginal designer Arkie Barton came Arkie, a fashion label aimed at young women with an eclectic style. Indigenous artist-turned-designer Archy Barton is the woman behind this Brisbane-based independent clothing brand. Aboriginal designer Arkie Barton combines traditional Australian trends with her Indigenous heritage to create stunning prints and vibrant patterns.
The NORTH fabric is also designed by local artists, allowing the Australian community to connect with local artists that NORTH collaborates with. Magpie Goose works with local artists in rural communities to collaborate on projects and print their colorful clothes. Magpie Goose licenses textile design in outlying art centers, with royalties paid to artists per meter of printed fabric. Masterclasses are organized with artists to develop their projects for screen printing.
Ella Noah Bancroft, an Aboriginal designer, is essentially a wearable piece of art. As an Aboriginal designer, Gordaya Gunnar notes that all of her designs are based on cultural values, especially protection and peace.
Perth-based designer Rebecca Rickard creates her own denim jackets using local art. Since Perth-based designer Rebecca Rickard founded Deadly Denim in 2018, she has collaborated with a range of local artists and designers, many of whom are outside the traditional fashion industry. Northern New South Wales homer Colleen Tai Johnson has become one of the most sought-after Aboriginal stylists.
Buluuy Mirrii (meaning Black Star in Homeroic) is a womenswear brand by Australian Aboriginal designer Colleen Taige Johnson. Lin-El Young is an Australian designer and artist based in Melbourne, Australia. Ngarru Miami combines Aboriginal culture with premium designer swimwear. Simone Arnol, one of the main characters in the fashion show at the annual Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, has been designing since 2015.
To learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers, check out our Q&A on Yatta Widders Hunt. Plus, the brands below (don’t forget to check out some of our favorite local beauty products as well). Indigenous Fashion Projects was developed in collaboration with retailer David Jones, who brought together six renowned Indigenous designers with Australian brand founders whom David Jones provided to help grow their business.