Marrithiyel fashion designer Paul McCann wants his work to make you feel something

IMAGE VIA @paul.mccann_art/INSTAgram

“Its wonderful to see our fashion practices embraced by the fashion industry.”

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.

Paul McCann, a Marrithiyel artist and designer, is getting ready to launch his first collection at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) with First Nations Fashion Design (FNFD).

Discover more local designers in our Fashion section. 

After not being able to see his breathtaking gumnut ball gown make its way down the runway at AAFW last year, he’s particularly excited to attend this year and to see First Nations designers being embraced by the fashion industry firsthand. Operating as a one-man team, his hope is that his collection will inspire future generations and make his mob proud.

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

My name is Paul McCann [and I’m] a Marrithiyel man, Darwin NT born, a traditional landowner connected to my country, Delye, [which is] 350kms south west of Darwin. I now currently reside in west Melbourne.

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

Expect to see a lot of glitz and glamour. All my garments have an element of sequins or beading with my unique hand painted organzas accompanied by bling bling accessories.

Your pieces are beautiful and intricate, talk us through the process of creating this collection.

My pieces are generally dictated by the amount of fabric I have per look. My collation this year features some beautiful sequin fabrics that can be quite costly, so I try to use as much of the fabrics as possible in the amount I have and work this into my design. I try to waste nothing. I always step back from my looks and ask, ‘What else does this need?’, and then further embellish the garment. At the end of the day I make what I like and I don’t let what the fashion industry is doing affect the looks that I create. My looks have an element of drama to them and that’s important in the final overall look… I want you to feel something.


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A post shared by Paul McCann (@paul.mccann_art)

What does this particular collection mean to you?

I started this collection at the end of the second year of lockdown. I also experienced a death in my family and was not able to go home to the funeral due to deadlines and finishing this collection… it’s a lot of hard work and energy sacrifice involved as I am a one man team so all of this work has been done after work hours, at weekends and using my holiday leave to pull this off.

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

I see a lot of my family in the garments that I have created and that’s a reflection of my taste. I am always inspired by the old world of fashion and wanted to present my first collection at AAFW with FNFD and inspire future generations and make my mob proud.

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

[I’m] very excited and very nervous as I was not able to attend last year and see the gumnut ball gown go down the runway, so this will be a huge first for me and I hope to attend in person this year.


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A post shared by Paul McCann (@paul.mccann_art)

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

I try to use as much of the fabric I have so as to not create waste. My collection also features vintage/retro tea towels that I have also worked into my designs giving them new life and purpose. Where possible, I like to collect and use vintage deadstock fabrics for a more one-of-a-kind feel.

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

It’s wonderful to see our fashion practices embraced by the fashion industry and to see staple fashion magazines fill their pages with our talent!

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

I feel it is changing, however I hope it is not a token gesture and time will tell.

What’s next for you and the team?

I honestly did not foreshadow the interest the gumnut gown would cause so I take it day by day and if I am able, I would like to go all the way!

Stay updated on Paul’s latest work here.

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