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David Jones’ Pathways Program connects indigenous designers, mentors

Image of two women wearing Ngali clothes
Ngali founder Denni Francisco is the first designer to be part of the program. Photo: Supplied

David Jones has finished up the first year of its Pathways Program initiative, and has connected six indigenous designers with mentors from across its stable of brands.

The program was established last September in collaboration with the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair’s Indigenous Fashion Projects, and involves workshops, seminars, mentoring and networking opportunities with indigenous designers to help them create their fashion label and make industry contacts.

Designers from sustainable resort-wear brand Kirrikin, slow-fashion Ngali, swimwear brands Liandra Swim, Indii and Native Swimwear, and womenswear Maara Collective were selected to work alongside leaders from Aje, Bassike, Bianca Spender, Bec and Bridge, PE Nation, Kitx and Esse.

David Jones’ general manager of womenswear, footwear and accessories Bridget Veals has been heading up the project, and said she is thrilled to have successfully brought the six designers together with their mentors.

“Our role in the program is to listen and understand the needs of our First Nations fashion designers and provide support at all stages of the development of a fashion label,” Veals said.

“This next phase in the program provides an opportunity for Indigenous fashion brands to tap into the experience of leading Australian fashion designers, and have them provide practical experience, insights and advice.

“Over the past twelve months, we have been able to tailor the program mentors to align with what the First Nation designer’s needs and ultimate goals are, and as a result, provide connections that would be most beneficial.”

According to Veals, the fashion industry has a responsibility to make space for mentoring and cultural exchange opportunities to foster the success of indigenous talent.

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