First Nations-led label Myrrdah on the journey from Kalkadoon Country to the runway



“Our collection is also influenced by the love of our Kalkadoon homelands. The colours come from our country – the rich red dirt, the pink sunsets and the ghost gums glistening in the golden hour.”

Fashion Journal is proud to continue an ongoing partnership with First Nations Fashion and Design aimed at highlighting and amplifying First Nations voices, talent, culture and stories across the industry. Fashion Journal acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first Australians and traditional custodians of the lands on which we live, learn and work. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

At the beginning of March 2020, four Mount Isa sisters joined their shared love of art, fashion and Country to create something beautiful. Now two years in the making, ethical Indigenous womenswear label Myrrdah is on the precipice of an official launch, weeks out from making its Afterpay Australia Fashion Week (AAFW) runway debut.

Discover more local designers in our Fashion section. 

Myrrdah will be hitting the runway with First Nations Fashion and Design (FNFD) and AAFW on Friday, May 13. Ahead of the FNFD presentation, the four sisters share their journey as designers so far.

Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us where you are from.

Hi, we’re Myrrdah! We’re four sisters (all of us mothers); born, raised and still living in Mount Isa. We’re in northwest Queensland, approximately 200 kilometres from the Northern Territory border. We started painting before we decided to merge our interests in art and fashion.

Tell us about your collection and what we can expect to see at the First Nations Fashion and Design show.

You’ll see an interpretation of our homelands, transferred onto pieces that represent us. Our collection also contains staple pieces that accommodate different shapes and sizes, crafted in our favourite linen fabric.

What inspired you to start Myrrdah and get into the fashion industry?

Working together is such an easy transition because we already spend most of our days together raising our children. Now, most of the kids are at school and we can really focus on our craft. This means lots of tea, coffee and homemade cakes, coupled with light squabbles over colours designs and who is sorting out lunch for everyone.

Our mum is an avid self-taught sewer who made a lot of our outfits growing up. She raised nine kids on one wage, so sewing our clothes helped to make ends meet.

What were the major points of inspiration for your collection, and more broadly you as a designer?

Our inspirations are our own combined journeys – going from young women through to motherhood our bodies were ever-evolving to adapt to the different stages of our lives. Our collection is also influenced by the love of our Kalkadoon homelands. The colours come from our country – the rich red dirt, the pink sunsets and the ghost gums glistening in the golden hour.

What does it mean to be involved in the First Nations runway at Australian Fashion Week?

Having the backing and support of FNFD has been a lifeline of support for us, they really gave us the confidence to continue to chase our dreams. We literally just Googled ‘Indigenous fashion’ three years ago and FNFD popped up. We contacted them, met up with Grace while in Cairns on a holiday and told her about our dreams and vision of the label.

From that moment on, they’ve supported us. Living rurally in the bush, creating a label doesn’t come easy. We didn’t know of anyone who’s successfully done it while living in Mount Isa. Having FNFD’s involvement has helped us to create the label we’ve always dreamed of.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in putting together your first collection?

Putting our first collection together from Mount Isa – and in the middle of COVID – presented some unique road blacks. There were all the Zoom meetings and emails because we weren’t able to fly anywhere, we couldn’t touch our fabrics or meet our dressmakers in person.

Postage is also a nightmare. Living rural, two weeks is nothing when waiting for a swatch from Melbourne (even with express postage). We’ve been working with The Social Studio, and it’s been a great fit for us. They’ve helped to explain all the terminologies of the fashion industry to us when decisions had to be made. It’s been a good challenge and an eye-opener!

What part does sustainability play in your design practice? And other ethical considerations?

Being First Nations people, we wanted to make sure we were being kind to the earth. It’s important to us as we’re still living on our homelands, teaching our children about our culture and how to respect and look after our land. We wanted to use only ethically-sourced fabrics and natural fibres, it was a major factor in who we chose to help us bring this label to life –like The Social Studio.

We also wanted to keep [our production] all here in Australia, knowing that we’re supporting Australian families in making our pieces.

Who do you think is most exciting in First Nations fashion right now?

We couldn’t name anyone in particular, because there’s such an emergence of amazing Indigenous artists, models, designers and others in creative fields. We’re so proud and excited for what the future holds for us and our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

What more can the fashion industry do to include First Nations people?

We feel they’re heading in the right direction, but there are always more ways to improve. I hope that the industry can start looking outside the city and moving to more remote places. We feel there are a lot of opportunities for our Indigenous people to be able to do what they love and still have the opportunity to live on country with family.

What’s next for you?

Next for us is to build our socials back up after being hacked! We were so naive about how to properly protect our account (we’ve now fixed that). We’re also working on a few collabs and looking forward to starting on our next collection.

For more on Myrrdah, head here.

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