All eyes are on the Australian fashion industry this week thanks to The National Indigenous Fashion Awards. From Canberra’s latest Sephora store to Burberry’s release of its it-bag in Australia, there’s a lot to take in. Denni Francisco, however, is holding most of our attention.

Credit: NIT

The National Indigenous Fashion Awards (NIFA) is giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders the credit they deserve. It’s easy to forget the First Nations presence in the fashion industry, mainly as the American designers hold most of the power.

Denni Francisco, the founder of Ngali, won the highest prize at the 2022 National Indigenous Fashion Awards.

At the ceremony held on August 3, Francisco received the Fashion Designer Award, sponsored by Country Road, for the second consecutive year.

The event, which was sold out and took place at Darwin’s Deckchair Cinema under the stars on Larrakia Country, honoured Australia’s First Nations peoples via clothing and textiles.

Cultural Centres

Credit: NIFA Website

Presented by the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation’s (DAAFF) Indigenous Fashion Projects initiative, six Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers were awarded for their contributions to the fashion industry.

“The event, held on Larrakia Country at Darwin’s Deckchair Cinema, also featured a live performance from Lena Kellie, and a Welcome to Country from Aunty Bilawara Lee,” as per Vogue Australia.

“It’s amazing to be back here and be able to celebrate together and also get behind all these amazing communities because for art centres, [because] it’s one of their only sources of income that comes externally into the community,”

says chief executive of the DAAF, Clare Summers. “It is a true economy, and we need to build it because the art centres are also cultural places, in that they are the lifeblood, the beating heart. I like to call them our communities—they keep culture strong,” she adds.

Creating Pathways

And this is not Francisco’s first success. This is her second time receiving this Fashion Designer Award, presented by Country Road. “What we can do with fashion is actually create pathways for others to follow,” says Denni Fancisco, sharing joe important NIFA and First Nations design is, not just to her.

“It actually shines the light on, you know, 65,000 years or more of incredible creativity. And not only are we there in the fashion space, but we really belong in the fashion space.”

Credit: AusFashionWeek

“I think that that is actually really important. I think that we always need to feel that you know, that our nation, our culture, everything that we’re about is protected and acknowledged and honoured.”

According to Vogue, other award recipients at the event include:

Esther Yarllarlla – winner of the Traditional Adornment Award.
Mimili Maku Arts and Linda Puna x Unreal Fur – Community Collaboration Award.
Laura Thompson of Clothing The Gaps – winner of the Business Achievement Award.
Philomena Yeatman from the Yarrabah Arts and Cultural Precinct – the Textile Design Award.
Lillardia Briggs-Houston – winner of the Wearable Art Award

For more information about NIFA, you can visit their website here.

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