Natalie Cunningham’s indigenous print swimwear made history when she sent it down the runway at New York Fashion Week’s spring summer shows in September.
Cunningham, a 34-year-old mother of three and the founder of Emu Designs, became the first indigenous Australian to showcase her work at the prestigious fashion event.
The Queenslander is based on the Sunshine Coast and now has her sights set on taking her designs into the tourist hot spots of Australia.
“Going to New York made me more aware that our brand needs to be sold in Australia as it is what tourists are looking for when they come to Australia,” she says.
The prints for Cunningham’s first collection were inspired by her father.
“I used one of my Dad’s paintings which is titled Biripi,” she says. “He named it after one of our tribes. My Mum is Greek and owns a cooking school on the Sunshine Coast. She is a very successful business woman and has brought me up with a never-give-up attitude, that you can be and do anything you set your mind to.”
Cunningham’s current collection features designs by Warlukurlangu artists from Yuendumu, 290 kms north of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
Cunningham’s customers include top indigenous model Samantha Harris, singer-songwriter Xavier Rudd and the United Nations.