First Nations designer Bobbi Lockyer is striving to create a more colourful and inclusive world

Photography by Bobbi Lockyer

Words by Gabrielle O’Hagan

“Influenced by the stories of the past, the colours of country and the waves of the ocean… my art refuses to be defined by conventional means.”

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.

Bobbi Lockyer, a proud First Nations artist and winner of the 2021 NAIDOC National Artist of the Year award, is about to launch her clothing label, Gantharri. Meaning both ‘queen bee’ and ‘grandmother’ in Ngarluma language, Gantharri is a loving tribute to Bobbi’s family, heritage, and culture.

From a young age, Bobbi expressed a passion for all things creative. She had a strong affinity for a variety of different creative mediums, including Aboriginal art, fine art, photography and fashion. Earlier this year, she joined First Nations community organisation Blak Lens, alongside an impressive array of emerging and established photographers. Now, her dream of starting her own fashion label is being realised. Inspired by her family and the environment, Bobbi is designing thoughtfully made, gender and size-inclusive clothing.

Discover more local designers in our Fashion section. 

Her latest collection is all about passion, vibrancy and colour; it’s also inherently tied to the land. Bobbi found inspiration at the beach, where she was captivated by the ocean, sand and marine life. She uses flowing fabrics and a myriad of colours to capture the beauty and intricacy of the natural world. The collection will be featured at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week Australian Fashion Week(AAFW) in partnership with First Nations Fashion and Design.

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

My name is Bobbi Lockyer and I’m a colour-obsessed, queer, feminist, pink-haired mermaid queen, spearheading change in social spaces through art.

I am a proud Ngarluma, Kariyarra, Nyulnyul and Yawuru woman born and based on Kariyarra Country in Port Hedland, NAIDOC Artist of the Year 2021 and an official creator for Nikon Australia, I’m also a solo mother to four amazing boys, striving to create a better, more colourful world for them and everyone else.

Influenced by the stories of the past, the colours of country and the waves of the ocean, along with my deep-rooted passion for community and dream of a better world, my art refuses to be defined by conventional means. Instead, it provides an insight into my creative heart and soul through an array of different mediums, including Aboriginal art, fine art paintings, photography, illustration and fashion design.

What inspired you to start your own design label, Gantharri?


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A post shared by Gantharri (gun-thar-dee) (@gantharri)

I’m a lifelong lover of fashion and had always dreamed of one day having my own fashion label. My mother taught me how to sew at a young age and I was forever creating outfits for my dolls and siblings. As I got older, I leaned away from fashion and more into my photography and art, but as I started photographing more fashion campaigns and collaborating with Deadly Denim, I realised I wanted to make my fashion dreams a reality.

My label is called Gantharri and it means both ‘queen bee’ and ‘grandmother’ in Ngarluma language. Gantharri is a labour of love, combining my passion for design with my flair for fashion and photography. It’s also a tribute to my grandmother, the original queen bee. As the sole creative mind behind Gantharri, I pride myself on working on all aspects of the label, from the design to the clothing development and photography.

Tell us about your collection and what we can expect to see at the FNFD show. 

This collection was created after my father passed away. I was working on some art and my dad’s favourite colour was purple, so I started to paint purple into my art as a way of self-healing. This artwork on my designs was also inspired by the coral in the ocean and along the Port Hedland reef. My designs for this collection are fun and summery which is the vibe I wanted to create, something that can look beautiful in both a casual or formal setting but was also full of colour and life.

When did you know you wanted to get into fashion and textile design?

I’ve known since I was very young and my mum first taught me how to sew on her sewing machine. I’d also do a lot of hand-sewing, creating little dresses for my dolls. As a teenager, I did some fashion design classes in school. I loved taking something plain, like calico, and creating a design full
of colour by dying or painting the fabrics and sewing them together.

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


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A post shared by Gantharri (gun-thar-dee) (@gantharri)

I’ve loved art and creating for as long as I can remember. I come from a very artistic family, where we were encouraged to let loose and discover ourselves and our connection to the world around us through art. My style may have evolved since the early, early days – before I was even old enough to hold a paintbrush – but my love for colour and craft has remained strong. I love that I’ve been able to make this my career and that people love my art as much as I love making it!

I’m very inspired by the ocean and spending time at the beach always seems to bring creative inspiration. Whether it’s looking at the way the little crabs leave marks in the sand. the intricate patterns in coral or the bright colours in seashells, I love it all. Whenever I’m feeling like I have an ‘art block’, I head to the beach. Connecting back with country really invigorates the soul. My children also inspire me, the way they look at the world with innocence and pure wonder is incredible.

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

Being part of an international runway last year was incredible – to be some form of representation for Indigenous art and design – but being part of AAFW and FNFD is absolutely amazing. It’s a whole group of deadly talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers and creatives showcasing and repping our culture on a major runway. I’m so excited to be part of this and can’t wait to see everyone’s designs and show off how resilient and deadly we are.

Tell us about the experience of putting together your collection. 

It was definitely an interesting experience, and I loved that I was part of every step of the process. I’ve loved every minute of this; it will be a final celebratory moment when I see my designs walking down the catwalk.

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


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A post shared by Gantharri (gun-thar-dee) (@gantharri)

As a designer, I don’t follow fast trends and design my pieces as staple pieces. My designs are created keeping in mind how natural fibres will look; I’m considerate with my pieces using minimal elastic, metal zippers and cotton threads. I had my designs printed on ethical, sustainable fabric in Australia and had the runway pieces manufactured here – as well in my hometown – reducing CO2 emissions from air freight.

My pattern maker is based in my hometown and uses every last bit of fabric in my designs, so there’s less wastage in the pattern-making process. I wanted to also focus my designs on being inclusive and genderfluid; really emphasising that cisgender, transgender and non-binary people can feel comfortable in my designs. I’ve designed the collection to have multiple sizes in one rather than a standard size eight; a mix of flowy and fitted. By incorporating mixed sizes in the one size we are being sustainable by reducing waste in pattern making and construction. My goal for my fashion label is to include all sizes.

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

More Indigenous representation in fashion, photography, makeup and hair artistry, etc. Seeing all these amazing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives come together is amazing.

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change? 

More inclusivity is needed in regards to sizing and breaking down gender stereotypes. When I’ve created for other runways, [the] outfits needed to be designed [to fit] a certain size and height – it would be so amazing to be able to create in any size for any size model on a major runway.

What’s next for you?

I’m focusing on launching my label officially at this runway and getting a few more collections out!

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