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Indigenous designers celebrated at inaugural national fashion awards

Julie Shaw, Maara Collective Resort Collection. Photo by Cybele Malinowski.
Julie Shaw, Maara Collective Resort Collection. Photo by Cybele Malinowski.
Maara Collective, Resort 20 Collection. Photo by Cybele Malinowski.

Last night, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers and artisans were celebrated at the first National Indigenous Fashion Awards, supported by the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and the Northern Territory Government.

“It’s significant that it’s the first time the NIFAS have happened in Australia and it shows that there’s a great respect for the Indigenous sector, which is being acknowledged as a thriving industry,” judge Yatu Widders-Hunt told Inside Retail.

“I think Indigenous fashion is like an anchor in the wider Australian fashion industry and it’s a beautiful part of the story. It’s almost taking its rightful place in the story of the broader Australian fashion industry and it’s something we can be proud of. It’s uniquely Australian. It’s a way to bring us together and celebrate the diversity of work that we have across the country.”

According to NIFA creative director Nina Fitzgerald, the awards are a chance for non-Indigenous communities to appreciate the diversity of First Nations designers. 

“Australia has these thriving cultures that have been here since time memorial,” Fitzgerald told Inside Retail. “They’re grounded in ancient roots and those traditions are still being lived now, but there’s an emergence of incredibly contemporary forms of the culture, which are so exciting and fun.”

Major award winner and Maara Collective founder Julie Shaw scooped up the Fashion Design Award, which was presented by Country Road. As part of her prize, Shaw won a 12-month mentorship at the retail brand.

In the future, Shaw would like more First Nations artisans and designers included in the mainstream fashion sector.

“I would love to see Indigenous fashion recognised and celebrated for its unique and dynamic contribution to the Australian fashion industry,” she told Inside Retail.

“My hope is that Indigenous design is viewed as part of the Australian fashion landscape in general – that it does not need to be segmented or considered a separate part of the industry, and where Indigenous designers, brands and creatives are recognised and showcased consistently.”

Shaw also won an award for her collaboration with the Bula’bula Arts Centre, where the two organisations produced Maara Collective’s Resort 20 collection, which debuted at the Darwin Art Fair as part of the ‘From Country to Couture’ runway show.

“Julie’s an incredibly experienced designer and she’s been working on her label for a long time. I thought it was beautiful that the winning collaboration was between two First Nations organisations. It demonstrated what a co-design and community-led collaboration looks like and it was a lovely thing to acknowledge how powerful that partnership was,” commented Widders-Hunt.

Below are the winners of the 2020 National Indigenous Fashion Awards:

Cultural Adornment and Wearable Art – co-presented with DAAFF: Peggy Griffiths

Textile Design Award – co-presented with RMIT University and Ross Bonthorne: Keiren Karritpul

Community Collaboration – co-presented with Northern Territory Government: Maara Collective X Bula’bula Arts

Environmental and Social Contribution – co-presented with Northern Land Council: Ninti On

Special Recognition – co-presented with Northern Territory Government: Bede Tungutaalum Fashion Design  – co-presented with Country Road: Julie Shaw

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