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A behind-the-scenes look at First Nations Fashion and Design’s retail initiative to support Indigenous designers across Australia

A pop-up with purpose.

Fashion Journal is proud to continue an ongoing partnership with First Nations Fashion and Design, launched this NAIDOC Week. 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. 

Earlier this month, First Nations Fashion and Design launched a retail initiative to support Indigenous designers and art centres across Australia. From December 15 to 22, visitors to the pop-up store were able to directly support First Nations creatives by purchasing works from makers like Sown In Time, Gillawarra Arts, Gammin Threads and K Rae Designs.

Post-pop-up, we wanted to know a little more about the process of creating a store entirely from scratch, particularly one with a focus on supporting Australia’s Indigenous designers and art centres, so we spoke to Albert, the manager of the store. Here’s a little peek into the process.

Hi Albert, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Hi! I’m a proud First Nations person of Papua New Guinean descent, born and raised in Cairns FNQ. I’m a singer-songwriter/performer/recording artist and also wear many different hats as a creative depending on the project and work involved. Until yesterday, I was the manager of the First Nations Fashion and Design Pop Up Store in Cairns Central which ran from December 15 to 22.

My artist/stage name is Kid Heron and for the past seven or so years I’ve had the pleasure of working with and touring around the country playing with and supporting some of Australia’s finest bands and solo artists. I’ve released four singles to date and am about to release a self-produced three-track EP! I’m also currently chipping away at finishing off my debut album scheduled for release sometime in 2021… fingers crossed. You can check out my music on all digital streaming services and platforms.

Not many people know that the heron (Guwau) is my ancestral clan bird and I am the youngest of my family, thus the name Kid Heron was born. In our language, Misiman, we say ‘Oun Guwau” which means “My clan bird heron”.

Tell us about the pop-up. Who was involved?

Enough about me! I’m here to talk about this beautiful thing called the First Nations Fashion + Design Pop-Up Shop. It was an incredible retail space featuring over 15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and designers from all over Australia. There’s a pretty long list of people who were involved in the FNFD Pop-Up, including the staff, artists, labels and designers, in-store musicians, FNFD models, friends and family, shopping centre management and customers.

The FNFD pop-up shop has been a meeting place of sorts. The models from our Walking In Two Worlds fashion show come by to say hello, musicians such as Jelly Oshen and myself have jammed in-store, friends, family and new faces from all over have come to share in the experience and inevitably tell stories inspired by the vibrant, ever-changing landscape of product, people and creative energy that is the FNFD pop-up shop. One thing is for sure, the pop-up, by virtue of its existence, was a conversation starter and more often than not, when customers found out it was only temporary they shared one sentiment – disappointment that it’s not here forever.

A few important things to note about why our FNFD pop-up store is so important: First Nations fashion is normally only seen in the spaces of art fairs and market stalls. That being said, the only other available platforms are museums and art galleries, which, in order to have access to you have to have been showcased in the museums or art galleries to be considered to even be stocked by them. This year with COVID hitting everyone so hard, most of the art fairs have gone digital and none have been open for business as usual.

On top of all this, there are no First Nations fashion retail platforms for designers or brands in Cairns, so our FNFD pop-up provides a solution to these hurdles. Our aim at First Nations Fashion and Design is to support the growth of the First Nations Fashion ecology. This is a touring pop-up which FNFD first took to Sydney where we set up at Broadway Shopping Centre. We then continued up north with a pop-up at Bulmba-Ja in Cairns North and finally we finished the last few days of the pop-up in Cairns Central Shopping Centre.

Tell us about the process of bringing together First Nations brands and creators. What was it like? What were the challenges we might not be aware of? 

The process of bringing together First Nations brands and creators was quite lengthy at first as it took Teagan (FNFD’s National Coordinator) around six weeks to coordinate the Sydney pop up store by approaching First Nations brands and designers for products and organising contracts, consignment and leasing agreements with partners. Not including the after-hours needed for the coordination it took from managing while in Perth (three hours time difference) to organise staffing and volunteers to manage the store. Plus another three weeks after the pop-up to do a stocktake, coordinate the return products, payments to designers then freight to the next pop-up location in Cairns at Bulmba-Ja which was the venue that the Walking In Two Worlds fashion show presented at.

From there it was actually a short process, as Teagan had approached most brands from our recent Sydney pop up at NAIDOC in November 2020. The 15 First Nations designers we have on board for the pop-up are only scratching the surface of what talent is out there. The main challenge in 2020 has been that COVID completely shut down the functionality and availability of the already small amount of platforms available for First Nations brands and creators.

It is no small feat that FNFD had to evolve the platforms from art fairs/market stalls to moving into a retail space. This has been a major step that we have needed for the community. To step into the world of retail and elevate First Nations products. These pop-ups have opened up promotional opportunities and exposed First Nations brands to a whole new customer and target market.

firstnationsfashiondesign.com

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