Indigenous Fashion Inspiration

As CIAF kicks off again this Thursday evening, top art collectors from across the country converge on Cairns to soak up the sights and sounds of this celebration of world-class Indigenous art, design and fashion. In the build-up to the launch, we caught up with designer Simone Arnol – co-curator of this year’s fashion performance – to find out about her process and her inspiration.

Tell us about your journey so far.

My artwork vibrantly captures my connection to country, Elders, children, Traditional Owners and the culture I embrace. I’ve also built a career working in roles dedicated to supporting Indigenous people, primarily Native Title, so my work comes from the heart as well as the land. I have a passion for natural colours emanating from the earth, and I weave a rich tapestry in my fabrics and unique designs based on significant ancestral stories.

In what ways does your label prioritise sustainability?

My designs incorporate recycled materials and different mediums to demonstrate the importance of sustainability for future generations. The earthy tones combine with the raw materials to create what I think of as my trademark grassroots style.

How do you incorporate your Indigenous heritage into your work? 

I rely on traditional methods of dyeing – which was taught to me by Verna Singleton – as well as weaving and dress making, to transform pieces of recycled fabric into wearable art. The simplicity of natural mark making gets intertwined into rich, complexity as my designs come to life on the Indigenous models I engage. I’m committed to keeping culture alive for the future, and I teach the models traditional dyeing processes to enable them to relate to the designs they’re wearing.

Tell us about CIAF.

My designs will be showcased at the upcoming CIAF fashion performance Bulmba-barra, which means ‘When bare feet touch the earth’, on 12-14 July. The CIAF fashion performance showcases 10 Indigenous designers from across the state, featuring cutting-edge concepts in textile and design inspired by the rich tapestry of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. I’m also curating the show, together with cultural practitioner Bernard Singleton and choreographers Rita Pryce and Peggy Misi.

CIAF 2018 takes place from 12 – 15 July, and you can buy tickets here.
PHOTOGRAPHERS: Pat Smithson and Wade Lewis MODEL: Kristen Fagan DESIGNS: Simone Arnol