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How these 8 emerging First Nations designers are forging their own paths

IMAGE BY @ngarrumiimi/INSTAGRAM
WORDS BY EMMA HOLLINGSWORTH

Ones to watch.

Fashion Journal is proud to continue an ongoing partnership with First Nations Fashion and Design, launched during NAIDOC Week 2020. It follows past mistakes by Fashion Journal that caused hurt to the First Nations’ community (you can read our apology in full here), and we are proud to be moving forward collaboratively with such talented Australian creatives. 

First Nations fashion and design is at the forefront of Australian fashion at the moment and it couldn’t have come soon enough. First Nations culture is rich with storytelling and creativity and the following designers have paid homage to our 60,000 plus years of heritage and brought our culture to life through fashion and design.


Discover more local designers in our Fashion section. 


Through their work, they are letting the world know we are still here and we are thriving. These are just some of the brilliant, creative First Nations designers who are showcasing their work on the world stage for all to see right now. It’s truly inspiring to witness their work and to see them represent First Nations people in the world of fashion and design.

Each of these designers has worked tirelessly on their brands to make their dreams a reality, to bring their culture and vision to life, and I cannot wait to see what the future brings for them. Read on to learn more about these designers and their work.

Clair Helen

 

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Clair Helen is a Tiwi Islander whose designs reflect her culture and her heritage. She creates beautiful pieces that represent her culture which drape beautifully and accentuates the figure, all while promoting sustainable practices in fashion. She sources sustainable materials and designs from a group of First Nations designers and artists in Wurrumiyanga, Northern Territory. 

@clairhelen

Grace Lillian Lee

 

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Grace Lillian Lee is not only the powerhouse behind First Nations Fashion and Design but she is also the designer behind her brand and namesake, Grace Lillian Lee. She began designing clothes when she was a young girl, often thrifting clothes and redesigning them.

Fast forward to years later and she is taking the Australian fashion world by storm with her intricate, carefully woven pieces that reflect her heritage and connection to culture. Grace’s work is vibrant and contemporary, and she has often spoken about how it has allowed her to open up conversations about her culture with non-Indigenous people. 

gracelillianlee.com

Aarli 

 

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TJ Cowlishaw is a Bardi, Nyul Nyul woman, and the designer behind Aarli. Aarli is a streetwear brand that specialises in custom made pieces, with a focus on sustainable and ethical materials.

The pieces are a reflection of Indigenous culture, with TJ often highlighting Indigenous slang on the products. Aarli focuses on sustainability and upcycling as a way of embracing culture and paying respect to its Indigenous roots by caring for the environment

aarlifashion.com

Nungala Creative

 

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Nungala Creative was established by Warumungu, Wombaya woman Jessica Johnson. Nungala is a multifaceted creative agency that dipped its toe into fashion and created a line featuring clothing and accessories that are fashionable and political.

Nungala’s pieces quickly became very popular and are a hit among those wishing to wear their statements loud and proud. The line features many colourful pieces which convey a political statement, including jewellery, T-shirts, and accessories such as pins and patches. 

nungalacreative.com

Keema Co

 

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Keema Co is a brother and sister duo run by Keema and Nick Williams, who are Koa, Kuku Yalanji, Meriam and South Sea Islander designers. Their work is a blend of youthful, contemporary designs that reflect their culture and heritage and encompasses a whole range of designs from textiles to handmade accessories, some of which they have hand-painted directly onto. They hand-make their accessories using natural materials such as seeds, nuts, emu feathers and shells which they have sourced themselves. 

@keema.co

Ngarru Miimi

Lillardia Briggs-Houston is the name behind Ngarru Miimi, an upcoming force in the Australian Fashion industry. Ngarru Miimi prides itself on being a slow, ethical fashion label, with Lillardia producing all of her pieces by hand on Wiradjuri Country. Her work is full of soft, earthy tones and pays respects to the plight of First Nations people, with a focus on sovereignty and self-determination. 

ngarrumiimi.com

Sown in Time

 

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Lynelle Flinders is a descendant of the Dhaarba Warra Clan and is the woman behind Sown in Time. Lynelle is an advocate for First Nations-led fashion and design and is not only a designer but a mentor in the industry.

Sown in Time has a focus on hand-printed textiles that push boundaries and explore culture. Her work features a blend of traditional and contemporary artworks with earthy tones that reflect her knowledge and passion for her culture. 

https://www.instagram.com/sownintime/

Amber Days

Amber Days is a First Nations children’s label led by artist, mother, and designer Corina. Corina is a Yorta Yorta woman whose designs are inspired by her love for the bush, desert and sea. Amber Days is a label with a conscience, with Corina’s aim to have as little environmental impact as possible by sourcing using ethical standards and without using harmful toxins and chemicals in her clothing.

She collaborates with different First Nations artists with each collection, enabling her to highlight their work and give them a platform as well. The result is beautiful, dreamy clothing that the little ones can wear to represent their culture. 

amberdays.com.au

For more on First Nations fashion design, try this.

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