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30 First Nations brands to buy from this Christmas, according to the co-founder of First Nations Fashion and Design

IMAGE VIA KEEMA CO

WORDS BY TEAGAN COWLISHAW

I know I will be buying local and First Nations this Christmas.

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. 

Being part of First Nations Fashion and Design, I am always on the lookout for 100 per cent First Nations owned and operated brands and independent designers. We are so lucky in the digital age – with our access to social media, it has never been easier to support First Nations businesses.

Being the founder of an ethical and slow fashion brand myself, I’m here to tell you that now is the time to support local brands and buy consciously for Christmas. Whether you’re First Nations mob or a non-Indigenous ally, check out these 30 First Nations brands this month (and remember, this is only a small list of the many deadly brands out there!).

Baby and kids

Amber Days

The label is 100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated. It’s run by Corina Muir and features Corina’s daughter, the superstar model Sapphire. Corina started the brand because she couldn’t find any kids clothing that didn’t use harmful chemicals in their processes, something that was, and still is, really important to her. When we connected in 2018 we instantly bonded over our desire to be ethical and sustainable. I love that all the garments are hand made here in Melbourne.

amberdays.com.au/

Ardi Bawa

 

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This brand is very new, and I only recently discovered them this via Instagram. I had been looking for reusable nappies (being a new mother) that had Indigenous designs. I love that they use Kimberley names for products, and the continuation of language, but I also love that the products are sustainable.

ardibawa.bigcartel.com

Lifestyle

Jarin Street

 

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I met Jarin in 2018 at the National Indigenous Art Fair in Sydney, where we instantly connected. I love that Jarin Street is 100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated. I was inspired by their concept of Indigenous yoga mats, and her collaborations with Indigenous artists give platforms to mob to showcase storylines and share culture through healthy practices. If you are based in Sydney, go check out the Jarin Street pop up shop held at Westfield Warringah Mall.

jarinstreet.com.au

Emro Designs

 

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I discovered Emro Designs through Trading Blak – an initiative to showcase local Indigenous designers and brands who are 100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated. Emro Designs has both indoor and outdoor lifestyle products. I love that the brand produces recycled mats and carpets with colourful prints and that profits from each item sold go directly back to the artists.

emrodesigns.com.au/

Mind and body

Lowanna Skin Care

I found Lowanna Skin Care on Instagram and was inspired by Sinead using natural, plant-based native ingredients for skincare products. It made me excited as I had been looking for an Indigenous brand that created skincare that was 100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated. I love the meaning of the brand – the word ‘Lowanna’ has two meanings: one being ‘girl’ or ‘woman’, and the other being ‘exquisite beauty’. 

lowannaskincare.com/

Earth Blended

 

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I came across Earth Blended when I did a NAIDOC Week competition and did some research on Instagram and found Jame. She is a Miimi (mother) raising three Aboriginal boys and living on country in the mid-north who runs her own 100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated small business called Earth Blended. I love her ethics and philosophy, plus how she shares her knowledge and adds a little magic that has been passed down from generations.

earthblended.com

Nood Australia

 

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I came across Nood Australia through a mate of mine, Jirra from Kalinya, who showed me what Anthony was creating during the crazy times of COVID. I wanted to find hand sanitiser and cleaning products made by a 100 per cent owned and operated Indigenous company. I love that the products are made using Indigenous botanicals that are sustainable and friendly to our environment.

wearenood.com.au

Jyelah Mind & Body

I was recommended Jyelah Mind & Body by my friend Grace Lillian Lee for a recent NAIDOC Week pop up. She came across this deadly brand, run by Kerrilee, that specialises in soaps, bath teas, body scrubs, bath bombs, body balm lotions, face masques, face mists and toners. Plus the brand has a unique gemstone soap – these soaps are made to provide an experience of cleansing through the energies of gemstones. My fave product is Black Magic Balm.

jyelah.com.au/

Jewellery

Gillawarra

 

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I came across Krystal’s brand Gillawarra in 2018 on Instagram where I instantly became obsessed with her laser cut jewellery and handmade echidna necklaces, and I’ve always wanted to collaborate with her. The brand is 100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated brand with her partner Kimiah, and I love how these mob locally source their supplies off country. The meaning of their brand name in Gathang/Kattang language is resting place. Check out her latest collaboration with Maara Collective using pearls.

gillawarraarts.com/

Litiyalla

 

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I did some research for a NAIDOC Week competition and found Camilla from Litiyalla. Only recently established in 2019, Camilla is a Gooniyandi and Gija woman from Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia, and she is currently living in Perth. I love her mixed mediums and the techniques she uses for her earrings. Especially the limited-edition beautiful hand-painted earrings – they each have her own storylines and culture where traditional meets contemporary.

litiyalla.com/

Mili Designs

 

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Mili Designs I came across in our First Nations Fashion and Design Yarning Circle where I e-met Kerri and saw how talented this designer/artist was and how deadly her jewellery is. It’s 100 per cent Aboriginal owned and operated, and everything is handmade in Cairns, Australia. You can currently purchase her earrings at the Jarin Street Pop up shop held at Westfield Warringah Mall.

facebook.com/milicairns/

Moorditj Madilga Yarka

I was recommended this brand by Grace Lillian Lee for a recent NAIDOC Week pop up, where she came across this deadly brand which is 100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated by duo Miranda and Clint. I am obsessed with the metallic and gold foil prints on animal skin – they grabbed my attention. This sustainable and ethical brand is one to watch out for. My favourite aspect is the upcycled offcuts of kangaroo fur that are made into new jewellery products!

moorditj-madilga-yarka.myshopify.com/

Pia Designs

 

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I stumbled across this brand on social media and was instantly sold! The hand-painted artwork with resin is super unique and I’m excited to see a jewellery brand from Tasmania.

piadesigns.com.au

Accessories

Kykoe

 

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I was recommended this brand by Grace Lillian Lee for a recent NAIDOC Week pop up, where she came across this deadly brand which is 100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated by Tishara. An Indigenous brand run by mother of three that does hair accessories – scrunchies, hair clips, and headscarves! I am loving all the colourful designs and my favourite part is that you can represent with Aboriginal flag or Torres Strait Islander flag scrunchies.

kykoe.com.au/

Grace Lillian Lee

 

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One of my biggest designer inspirations – art meets fashion designer – the queen of weaving, Miss Grace Lillian Lee. I have been following this woman’s journey since 2013, and #getyourweaveon has been a slogan to remember. I’ve always thought of her as the Australian Iris Van Herpen, with the incorporation of traditional techniques which she has transformed into 3D contemporary design. You can purchase her limited edition designs from selected art galleries around the nation. If you are in Brisbane, go check them out at the deadly Blak business Open House Westend where they have her weave in stock for Christmas.

gracelillianlee.com/

Paul McCann

 

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Paul McCann came to my attention when The Merindas posted a photo of a pair of sunglasses with an Indigenous design and I thought ‘Take my money’! Recently featured in The Guardian, he has continually caught my eye with each hand made product, from his gumnut bush bling to his fabulous collaboration, the Silver Lens Waterways Sunglasses, which you can purchase from L.eyes Eyewear.

instagram.com/paul.mccann_art/

Clothing

Maara Collective

 

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I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Julie Shaw in Sydney at the 2018 National Indigenous Art Fair, where we instantly connected. She is the recent winner of the 2020 National Indigenous Fashion Awards and been nominated for the prestigious IMG Australian Laureate Awards. Her 2019 Bula’bula Art Centre of N/E Arnhem Land collaboration has been recently acquired by the Bendigo Art Gallery and is featured in the Piinpi exhibition which runs until January 17 2021. Go check out her recent 2020 collaborations with Indigenous brands, from a new jewellery collaboration with Krystal Hurst from Gillawarra Arts to her new resort wear collaboration with Lucy Simpson.

shop.maaracollective.com/

Tradara Briscoe

 

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While in Darwin in 2016, I came across an incredible artist/designer named Tradara who is an Anmatyerr Warlpiri woman from Central Desert, but is based in Darwin NT. She creates one of a kind hand-painted pieces with storylines and dreaming from her elders that have been passed down through the generations. I love her limited-edition hand-painted bags and accessories, but I’m obsessed with her resort wear collection of kaftans and kimonos.

tradara.com.au/

Ngarru Miimi

Ngarru Miimi, meaning Honey Sister, is a slow fashion brand that’s focused on ethical and sustainable fashion. Its unique hand-printed designs are constructed on Wiradjuri country. It was established to explore culture, self-determination and sovereignty through fashion and textiles, while showcasing the strength in identity, pride in culture and resilience of Aboriginal Peoples. Lillardia Briggs-Houston is super talented –she’s a printmaker, patternmaker, seamstress and produces all her garments and accessories on country. Recently nominated for a National Indigenous Fashion Award, she is another superstar to watch. Her SS21/22 collection is coming soon.

ngarrumiimi.com/

Keema Co

 

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Indigenous artists and siblings Nickeema Williams and Keemon Williams are my ones to watch and look out for in 2021! This next-gen family duo are superstars and are so talented, with their graphic design background and hand-painted designs that are colourful and playful. I am completely in love with the rainbow gum reversible visor, fresh water turtle shirts and hand-painted accessories! Go check out their Facebook page and shop some fresh new products for Christmas.

facebook.com/keemaco/

Nungula Creative

 

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100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated by proud Warumungu/Wombaya woman Jessica JohnsonNungala Creative is fun, playful and has a hint of political activism. One of our biggest sellers and a brand that was very popular at the FNFD NAIDOC pop up shop, Nungula Creative has everything you need from laser-cut earrings, lapel pins, colourful T-Shirts, cards and stickers – you are bound to find something you love in any of her collections.

nungalacreative.com/

Aarli

 

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Aarli is a proudly 100 per cent Australian First Nations owned and operated business. I am a little naughty, as I had to chuck in my brand to be part of the mix! (I am biased). Established in 2014, we specialise in producing limited-edition apparel by upcycling deadstock to continue the lifespan of unwanted products and keeping them from landfill. Aarli is known for custom streetwear, from unique jumpsuits to bomber jackets, and we now we have facemasks made from recycled plastic bottles. Our recent Deadly Kween jumpsuit has been acquired by Bendigo Art Gallery and is currently featured in the Piinpi exhibition. We have collaborated with First Nations designers like Haus of Dizzy, Gillawarra Arts and Clair Helen. Stay tuned for more collaborations in 2021.

aarlifashion.com/

Bananalands

 

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I met Nathan in Melbourne to yarn about other fashion projects and was excited to connect as I’ve always followed his brand on Instagram because of his quirky designs and cool threads. Featured on Briggs, the mighty king himself, there is some cool stuff to purchase from T-shirts, tote bags, stickers and lapel pins – have a shop now and get that deadly person some cool products for Christmas.

bananalands.com

Strait Clothing

 

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For people looking for Torres Strait Islander threads, look no further than Strait Clothing. This brand had the deadly Patty Mills represent it and have everything you need to represent from sports bags, facemasks, socks, stickers and headwear.

strait-clothing.myshopify.com

Yarli Creative

 

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I recently connected with Maddison from Yarli Creative who is a powerhouse mother and building her business from the ground up. You can find just about anything, from T-shirts, jumpers, hand-painted artwork, Christmas cards, face masks to digital prints. Recent collaborations include wall decors with Little Rae Prints and a baby wear range with Bundarra Wear.

yarlicreative.com.au/

Art centres

Warringarri Arts

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the Waringarri Arts team in 2020 during my time at First Nations Fashion and Design. Peggy Griffith has been a recent winner of the 2020 National Indigenous Fashion Awards in Darwin for her Legacy Dress which has been recently acquired by the Bendigo Art Gallery and is featured in the Piinpi exhibition which runs until January 17 2021. Specialising in block printing and screen-printing fabrics, there is also more to shop from ceramics, carved boab tree nuts, merchandise, tote bags and T-shirts.

waringarriarts.com.au/

Nagula Jarndu

 

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Being from WA, I was introduced to this art centre while in Broome in 2016 when I was doing fashion workshops out on country. This art centre has been operating since the 1980s and been a major creative outlet for mob in Broome. They have been featured on the runway at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair wearing designs by Magnolia Maymuru. I love their block printed fabrics, sustainable block-printed beeswax food wraps, tote bags and handmade soaps.

nagulajarndu.com.au/

Bábbarra

 

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I met Jess from Bábbarra Women’s Centre, Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation at the National Indigenous Art Fair in Sydney and we instantly bonded due to being both from NT. I feel so proud as she has just been appointed and promoted to become their art centre manager. This is HUGE as she would be one of the first Aboriginal art centre managers in Australia, as 90 per cent of all art centres are run by non-Indigenous managers.

babbarra.com

Mangkaja Arts and Rukaji Design

 

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From the small town of Fitzroy Crossing in WA, Mangkaja Arts are well known for their vibrant acrylic works on both paper and canvas, as well as mediums including printmaking, traditional artefact making, carving, and basket weaving. They’re most famous for their recent collaboration with Gorman Clothing, which launched in 2019 at Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and sold out within the first two months. Look out for their new brand Rukaji Designs with hand bush dyed scarves, babywear and upcycled clothing on offer. Plus, they currently have a 20 per cent Christmas sale online!

mangkaja.com/

Ngkurr Arts

 

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Nykurr Arts is from the banks of the Roper River in Ngukurr, South East Arnhem Land NT. They have colourful and playful prints and products including paintings, merchandise, textiles and jewellery. My fave artist is Karen Rodgers and her deadly Troopy design in the box dress or T-shirt style, or Jill Daniels’ Cowgirl T-shirt!

ngukurrarts.com/

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