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Your guide to all of the BIPOC creatives you can’t miss at this year’s Melbourne Fashion Festival

IMAGE VIA MELBOURNE FASHION FESTIVAL

WORDS BY ISABELLA WIGHT

Immerse yourself in Melbourne’s diverse fashion scene.

If you’re a Melbourne-based fashion aficionado, it’s likely you’ve already marked March 11 to 20 on your calendar for this year’s Melbourne Fashion Festival. Following a difficult year for creative industries, I think we’re all excited for an excuse to take those impulsive lockdown-purchased platform crocs for a spin. Or maybe that’s just me?

Aside from the pandemic, 2020 also put a microscope on the topics of representation, opportunity and equality in our BIPOC communities. The fashion industry has previously been shrouded in exclusivity, only making space for those who fit into its tiny (cis, White, able-bodied) boxes. The good news? Change is happening. And if you want to be a part of it, here’s a list of the BIPOC creatives you can support at this year’s MFF. Crocs encouraged.


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On the runway 

Saturday’s Runway 1 is a homage to local favourites and womenswear brand Ngali is no exception, undoubtedly recognisable from the stunning Aboriginal artworks that feature on its silk slips, skirts and gowns. Founder Denni Francisco, a proud Wiradjuri woman, created Ngali to celebrate and share the beauty of Aboriginal culture, always keeping Indigenous women at the centre of the brand narrative. Named in 2020 as one to watch, Ngali has garnered attention for its considered design, quality fabrics and stunning prints. 

A closer look

What do fashion and fungi have in common? Let Remuse designer Tamara Leacock tell you. Micologia is the third installment in Tamara’s mycology-inspired multisensory series, marking the release of her collection Micologia III. As a designer and woman of colour, Tamara integrates androgynous, nature-inspired silhouettes with afro-futurist aesthetics, using her platform to speak out about topics like equality, representation and performative activism.                 

 

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For a behind-the-scenes experience, check out Walking in Two Worlds, a fashion showcase presented by First Nations Fashion and Design (FNFD). In collaboration with Indigenous designers, artists and models, FNFD launched Walking in Two Worlds as an all-encompassing fashion film and celebration of creative talent, documented by traditional Gugganji landowner, Elverina Johnson.

Arts and ideas

If you’ve been to this year’s NGV Triennial, you’ve probably seen Nigerian photographer Lakin Ogunbanwo’s amazing series of portraits, Are We Good Enough. Lakin’s In Conversation talk is an intimate look into his life, touching on topics like inspiration, artistic process and cultural preservation. He’ll be joined by the NGV’s photography guru Susan Van Wyk, and you can watch from the comfort of your living room.  

If you’re craving something a little more tangible, the Atong Atem x Romance Was Born capsule collection will take you to a hyper coloured natural world. South Sudanese mixed media artist and writer Atong Atem uses her work to explore the themes of home, identity and belonging in the African diaspora. During Melbourne’s seemingly never-ending lockdown, Atong began collecting natural debris on her allotted one hour of exercise within her five-kilometre radius. 

 

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After carrying wattle, gum nuts, paperbark, plastic, dust and leaves around with her for three weeks, Atong used them to create richly coloured, distorted works of art. Inspired by her creative intuition, Romance Was Born created a new capsule collection, using printed fabrics emblazoned with Atong’s work, which you can catch at the Collingwood Yards

How it’s made

Want to get hands-on? The Gung | create, make, do, love exhibition by Wergaia/Wemba Wemba artist Kelly Koumalatsos is an exploration of how Indigenous tradition is woven into her artistic practice. Kelly’s work fuses the long-standing practice of possum skin cloak making with the modern technology of printmaking to create striking, mixed media works. 

And you don’t want to leave without creating your own merch. Gammin Thread’s interactive workshop encourages participants to create their very own deadly slogan tees (see inspiration here). Designer Tahnee Edwards is a proud Yorta Yorta and Taungurung woman, an entrepreneur and the creative drive behind Gammin Threads, a brand that champions female empowerment, equality and Bla(c)k pride. 

 

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In conversation 

Listen and learn. Just in case your MFF schedule wasn’t packed enough, there are still panels to attend. The Australian Fashion Summit has three days’ worth of diverse industry-led conversations, like this discussion about Indigenous Representation. Led by Yatu Widders-Hunt, the founder of @ausindigenousfashion, the panel’s all about expanding the reach of First Nations designers and creatives. 

To explore the Melbourne Fashion Festival program in full, head here.

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