Indigenous designers herald a coming of age

When garments by Aboriginal designers along with those by Torres Strait Islanders, Canada’s First Nations, Native American Indians, New Zealand Maoris and the Pacific Island nations hit the catwalk, it will be the first time international indigenous fashion has made the official program at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival.

The show at the Melbourne Museum on March 8 will also help herald a new era for Australian indigenous fashion designers who are matching traditional prints with modern, edgy designs.

Melbourne designer Lyn-Al Young, 21, whose evening wear will be part of the show, said she likes her garments to tell a story. Her prints are inspired by traditional tree markings handed down through generations of her families — her mother is of the Wiradjuri people in New South Wales and her father of the Gunnai in Victoria.

“It’s putting the two together,” she said. “It’s kind of modern dressing but the paintings have been passed down through generations of my family.”

Organiser Tina Waru said indigenous fashion is coming of age. The Global Indigenous Runway event has grown out of a project of the same name that nurtures indigenous designers, models and stylists.

The show will feature the work of 14 designers and include swimwear, evening wear, avant-garde designs, shoes and accessories. About 240 people are expected to attend.

Ms Waru said indigenous fashion has been part of the festival’s cultural program in the past, but it will be the first time it will be part of the official fashion program with the offsite show at the museum.

It will also be the first time it has encompassed indigenous designers from countries other than Australia and New Zealand.

An indigenous New Zealander whose family founded the first Maori fashion show in New Zealand, Ms Waru gave up full-time work to concentrate on getting the Global Indigenous Runway Project off the ground.

“It was about getting our indigenous people out there . . . rather than looking at one or two to represent a whole nation,” she said.

“It was about increasing that representation to say here are these beautiful indigenous people, look at these designs.

“There were a lot of designs taken from indigenous people. By building representation in the industry we are able to create our own designs without that happening.”


  • Tickets to the March 8 event, which begins at 4pm in the Discovery Foyer at the Melbourne Museum, are available from Ticketek.



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