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Afterpay Australian Fashion Week was a landmark event for First Nations Fashion and Design

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

Image by Lucas Dawson, FNFD Show at AAFW 2021

PHOTOGRAPHY BY LUCAS DAWSON

WORDS BY MAGENTA PORTER

But there’s still a way to go.

A historic week for Australian fashion comes to an end today, as the 2021 Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) wraps up on Gadigal Country. Among an array of incredible live shows were two landmark showcases of First Nations designers on the runway. 

On Wednesday morning, the First Nations Fashion and Design (FNFD) runway show, pictured in the gallery above, made history as the first-ever Indigenous fashion show to be a part of the AAFW program. 


For more fashion news, shoots, articles and features, head to our Fashion section.


Showcasing seven different First Nations designers, with a lineup of First Nations models and a First Nations production team, the show made an indelible mark on the Australian fashion industry.

Colourful, modern and innovative designs by labels such as Amber Days, Nungala Creative and Clair Helen highlighted the breadth of talent that fashion week has been missing out on for some time. 

Despite the importance and success of this historic show, the feeling that it was slightly overdue hangs in the air. Speaking to FJ prior to fashion week, Grace Lillian Lee, founder of FNFD and curator of the AAFW Welcome to Country, emphasised the role that Indigenous culture and native landscapes have played in Australian fashion and design for over 200 years. 

Charlee Fraser, ambassador and model for FNFD, echoed Lee’s vision, as she reflected on the week. 

“This is the very first time Indigenous designs have graced the fashion week runway since its creation 25 years ago, it’s incredible that we’re here but why did it take so long? Consistency is key! It would be nice to see this forever engrained within fashion week practices and how fashion week chooses to show continued support in other ways,” Fraser said.

Lee’s aim to rewrite history and reclaim the narrative of connection to country through fashion and design was achieved tenfold, with the FNFD shining as one of the highlights of the week-long program. 

The following afternoon, the Indigenous Fashion Project show presented by David Jones and the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation featured First Nations designers Indii Swimwear, Kirrikin, Liandra Swim, Maara Collective, Native Swimwear and Ngali

This second show, curated by the founder of Jira Models, Perina Drummond, was held on Mabo Day and paid homage to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across Australia, celebrating their unique stories, journeys, rich cultural heritage and innovative designs.

The celebration of these Indigenous labels continues today in Sydney’s CBD, with the collections now on display in the David Jones Elizabeth Street flagship store windows. 

To add to the unprecedented nature of the 25th AAFW, consumers were invited to attend a number of shows, the traditionally exclusive program opening up to the public for the first time ever. 

Rounding out a fashion week like no other, The Talks program this year also featured a more diverse and inclusive lineup than ever before. Panels such as Wonder Woman, a talk hosted by the founder of online community @ausindigenousfashion, Yatu-Widders Hunt, addressed the need for change and representation in the industry. 

The significance of these unprecedented, monumental historical firsts cannot go unrecognised. This AAFW has set the bar for the future of the Australian fashion industry, one that now looks far brighter, more diverse, and more representative than ever before.

To find out more about First Nations Fashion and Design, head here.

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