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Oscar Hunt and Stan Yarramunua bring Indigenous storytelling to tailored suits

Words by Jasmine Wallis

In collaboration with Amity Guild.

“Traditionally, Aboriginal men would wear possum skin cloaks and the stories would be on them,” Indigenous Australian artist, Stan Yarramunua, tells me over the phone. We’ve organised an interview to coincide with the launch of his collaboration with Melbourne-based suit and tailoring brand, Oscar Hunt.  The release sees Stan’s artwork lining the jackets of a number of Oscar Hunt suits.

“A man today can wear these suits so when they’re out for dinner or at a meeting, people will see the suit when they take their jacket off and put it on the back of their chair. And then that guy, he’s the story-teller.” 

This concept of storytelling through garments and heritage is the impetus behind their coming together.  With Chris Edwards (the director of Oscar Hunt) alongside Benson Saulo and Aaron McNeilly of the Amity Guild, Stan has created a collection of six “wearable art” suit jackets – with the aim of drawing attention to Australia’s Indigenous cultures and their access to certain spaces. 

For centuries, boardrooms around the world have been traditionally white and male. Chris recognised this and, after being approached by Benson and Aaron, jumped at the opportunity to create a line that works towards reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.  

Stan hopes the result of the collaboration is an increased awareness of Indigenous Australian history and culture in these influential spaces. 

“The more educated people that can wear these suits, the more awareness, because they’re in a position to talk about the culture to other circles of people.”

Benson Saulo, also an Indigenous Australian man, created the Amity Guild initiative to engage with like-minded people interested in progressing the conversation around Indigenous affairs. He says that Oscar Hunt was a “natural fit” due to its previous work with social enterprises such as the Lighthouse Foundation.   

Benson states that Amity Guild’s reason for joining the collaboration was “ultimately, being able to connect this group of individuals who are wearing the suits to have the conversation and progress reconciliation within their spheres of influence.”  

Not only is the aim of the line to create conversations within the white, male, upper echelons of our capitalist society, but also to open up spaces and increase representation. 

“For a younger generation, seeing culture represented in the boardroom, across academia or across other parts of society, it actually creates spaces for them to feel welcome,” Benson explains. “They feel that they can actually play a role in spaces that are for them.”

It could be easy for a tailoring company with apparel retailing from $1,000 to jump on the “woke” bandwagon just for show. On this, Chris notes, “I think certainly from my end, as a white Australian male there’s this sort of box-ticking that sometimes happens.”

But by collaborating with Indigenous enterprises and artists, Chris considers Oscar Hunt as the vehicle bringing the idea to life. “It’s Benson, Aaron and Stan who are the real champions of this concept.”  

Each of the six printed lining designs were created by Stan to symbolise a different character.

With names such as ‘The Insider’, ‘The Connector’, ‘The Philosopher’ and ‘The Citizen’, Benson says the jackets signify more than just a presence of Aboriginal culture in a corporate environment it’s not always included in. 

“All Indigenous art, it’s linked to a story, it’s linked to time and place. And so we wanted to ensure the type of people we are engaging share the same values and courage and creativity and curiosity.”

Ultimately, this limited-edition line of suit jackets is about allyship, putting your money where your mouth is, and working towards the reconciliation that Australia is yet to achieve.  It’s also about visibility, an increasingly important concept in fashion and politics today. 

Chris says his collaborator Benson put it nicely: 

“When you see a flash of that lining, and if you spot someone else who’s got that, there’s a good little kind of solidarity. This shouldn’t be a subtle message. Realistically, Australia’s got a lot of work to do to get this reconciliation right, but I like this idea that ‘Yep, we’re in this together’.” 

You can browse the collection in the gallery above or online now.

oscarhunt.com

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