A new generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers are making their mark in the competitive Australian fashion industry. These artists use ethical and sustainable manufacturing, and traditional skills and practices, to express culture and heritage through their signature wearable art and designs.
Here are five of the most innovative and cutting-edge Aboriginal fashion designers, and their labels, working today.
Lyn-Al Young, the Gunnai, Wiradjuri, Gunditjmara and Yorta Yorta Nations
Lyn-Al, an up-and-coming label headed by emerging designer Lyn-Al Young, is known for its one-off and bespoke wearable art pieces.
The label’s name has an intergenerational cultural significance- a combination of the names of the designer’s grandmother and great-grandmother. This is a constant reminder of the importance of honouring heritage in the brand’s designs. Each piece is based on the tree carvings, symbolic markings, landscapes and totems of Lyn-Al’s four ancestral lands. Her garments are bright, bold and incredibly wearable.
“My hope is that every person wearing one of my designs will sense the spirit of Walumarra Nungurra (protection and peace).”
The label features designs that are based on cultural values. Lyn-Al Young also runs Fasheaming, a ‘fashion dreaming’ program that works to provide young people with a safe and creative environment in which to create wearable art and jewellery.
Find out more about Lyn-Al’s designs at lyn-al.com.au/
Haus of Dizzy
Kristy Dickinson, the Wiradjuri Nation
Haus of Dizzy, headed by powerhouse fashion entrepreneur Kristy Dickinson, is an instantly recognisable jewellery and accessory label that’s going from strength to strength.
Coming from a background in retail, Dickinson began her brand by making jewellery from bits and pieces of old earrings and selling them at market stalls. Her label has since had an impressive rise to prominence with designs that fuse hip-hop and 90s pop culture with Indigenous iconography and designs. The brand is colourful, graphic and bold. Haus of Dizzy pieces range from the nostalgic to the political and always retain their unique signature style.
Dickinson now hand-makes each piece with a solar-powered laser cutter.
“Being a one-woman show, there’s so much to do every day. My usual day starts at 7am and goes to 11pm, so there’s not really time to think about anything else, especially because I’m going to New York. Sometimes I’m juggling 15 things at once – women, we can do anything.”
Find your new favourite piece at hausofdizzy.com/.
Colleen Tighe Johnson, the Gomeroi Nation
Buluuy Mirrii, meaning “Black Star” in Gomeroi language, is a contemporary womenswear label run by designer Colleen Tighe Johnson. The brand turns commissioned artworks into unique, one-off garments made using luxury fabrics.
Runways in Melbourne, New Zealand, Canada and New York have featured the label. Buluuy Mirrii revives Gomeroi Dreaming Stories and draws its models from the not-for-profit Buluuy Mirrii Youth Development program, which takes young Aboriginal people from their home towns and brings them to the international stage.
Tighe Johnson states that:
“Each of my designs harnesses the spirit of my ancestors and tells their story”.
Johnson’s long-term business vision is to establish a 100% Aboriginal owned and run fashion house in Australia and this is well on its way to becoming reality.
See some of Buluuy Mirrii’s beautiful designs at buluuymirrii.com/
Amanda Healy, the Wonnarua Nation
Kirrikin’s name comes from a word that translates roughly to “Sunday’s best clothes”. This is a luxury resortwear brand headed by entrepreneur Amanda Healy.
A team of Aboriginal artists make the label’s exclusive designs. Their signature art transforms into swimwear and clothing as well as accessories inclusing jewellery and scarves. Healy began her foray into the fashion world in 2014 and runs it as a social enterprise. As a result, the label shares profits with the artists in order to address the shortage of authentic Indigenous products in the industry. The brand is developing a strong reputation internationally.
Sustainable fabrics, viscose (wood pulp) and Vita Lycra (Recycled Plastic Bottle lycra), are digitally printed with Kirrikin Summer artworks.
Check out their designs at kirrikin.com/.
Arkie Barton, the Kalkadunga Nation
The designer of her namesake label, Arkie, is a fresh face on the visual arts and fashion scene in Brisbane. Arkie the Label fuses the twin disciplines of visual art and fashion.
Her designs, infused with inspiration from her Aboriginal heritage, have been featured on runways at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival. Notably, they also showed in Ghana and Sierra Leone for National Reconciliation Week celebrations. Contemporary Indigenous Art has greatly informed her creative practice.
“I believe that my clothes and work is for the young woman that wants to express herself through colour and vibrancy and is interested in engaging in contemporary Indigenous Australia and our Indigenous Culture.”
Barton’s hand-drawn prints are from natural elements. They incorporate the colours of deserts and water dreaming. Arkie designs incorporate her paintings into ultra-contemporary fits.
You can shop Arkie designs at arkiethelabel.com/
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