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Always was, always will be: First Nations design celebrated at Fashion Week

From the moving Welcome to Country that opened Afterpay Australian Fashion Week last Monday to the political and historic closing show, it’s clear that the future of fashion is First Nations.

Darwin Aborignal Art Fair’s initiative Indigenous Fashion Projects presented a spectacular show featuring talent from its Pathways Program including Kirrikin, Maara Collective, Liandra Swim, Native Swimwear and Ngali. High-profile Indigenous models including Nathan McGuire, Samantha Harris and Magnolia Maymuru walked the runway against a rich digital backdrop of Australian landscapes from the land to the sea.

To close an incredible runway, newly appointed DAAF ambassador and musical artist Jessica Mauboy sang her latest single Automatic as the models did their final walk of the night.

 “It was such an honour to collaborate with DAAF’s Indigenous Fashion Projects and take part in this year’s IFP Runway,” said Mauboy in a statement. “I have been a long-time advocate for supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creativity and it’s an experience that I won’t forget for a long time and an initiative that’s close to my heart.”

During the week, Indigenous talent was also represented during several industry panel discussions on First Nations’ impact on fashion, including swimwear designer Liandra Gaykamangu, Black modelling agent Bianca Hunt, models Allira Potter and Sené Maluwapi and Mayor Phillemon Mosby from the Torres Strait Island Regional Council.

Gaykamangu tackled the issue of large non-Indigenous brands collaborating with small Indigenous artists during her conversation.

“I want to ask you – why? Is it because you know it’s going to sell? Because it’s trendy right now?” she said.

“Beyond you making money, [what] are you actually doing for my community, apart from what people see out the front? Not only do I give a lot of support to my family, but that support translates to a lot of time into other things as well that I don’t necessarily promote.”

But perhaps the most moving significant moment of the week was the closing show on Friday night, which brought the audience to their feet. No doubt, it was a historic and political show. Clothing the Gaps’ models walked down the runway, holding signs reading where they’re from, such as “I am Comeroi Wodi Wodi” and “I am Eastern Arrente”.

As the team stated in an Instagram post after the show: “This collection includes yarns about sovereignty, respecting Country, meaningfully acknowledging traditional custodians and the diversity of Aboriginal Communities…we’re more than merch, we’re merch with a message.”

Meanwhile, Marrithiyel designer Paul McCann’s collection was modelled on both male and female bodies strutting the runway. Other labels on the night included Ikuntji Artists; Nungala Creative; Myrrdah; Gantharri; Ihraa Swim and Taking Shape’s latest collaboration with Indigenous designer Elverina Johnson.

Finally, when Indigenous singers Christine Anu and Zipporah sang an emotional rendition of My Island Home to end the night, the tears were flowing in the crowd.

Check out some of the photos from the incredible week here.

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