“We Are Looking Back at the Old Ways”: Meet the 2021 Country to Couture Designers
Shining a light on the incredible Indigenous fashion and design talent we have in this country, the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation’s (DAAFF) cornerstone fashion event, Country to Couture, is a brilliant showcase supporting and encouraging the growth of First Nations peoples within the industry.
Born out of DAAFF’s Indigenous Fashion Projects platform, which centres First Nations peoples working in textiles and fashion, the event is a vibrant celebration of cultural storytelling and wearable art. Building on the burgeoning textile design movement in remote Indigenous communities, Country to Couture has been showcased alongside the annual Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair since 2016. It will follow this year’s National Indigenous Fashion Awards, streaming on NITV’s Facebook page on 3 August from 6.30pm.
This year the Country to Couture showcase will return to Larrakia Country after a digital iteration in 2020. In the lead-up to the event this Wednesday 4 August, and if you don’t find yourself in Darwin, we thought we’d have a quick yarn with each of the featured designers to learn more about their collections. Grab a cuppa, scroll down and get acquainted – you may just find a new favourite.
image above NGALI, COUNTRY TO COUTURE. PHOTO BY TIMOTHY HILLIER.
image PINK DRESS BY MAICIE LALARA, ANINDILYAKWA ARTS. PHOTO BY ANNA REYNOLDS.
“I am mixing the old ways and the new ways, because we want to show the world our artwork, culture and island lifestyle. We are looking back at the old ways… to make links between our ancestors and the future generations. That’s my vision. When the young girls wear my designs, I am proud for my community; that’s why the ancestors gave me that vision.” – Maicie Lalara, artist.
image DEADLY DENIM FOUNDER REBECCA RICKARD.
“What started off as a passion project, has now blossomed into a thriving business that blends all things we love into one: our culture, sustainable fashion and giving back to the community.”
images (left to right) KAY FINN AND AUDREY STEWART; JASMINE NELSON. PHOTOS TAKEN IN DUBJIBA (OODNADATTA, SA) BY MELANIE HENDERSON, KU ARTS.
Dunjiba Fashions, from Dunjiba Community Artists supported by Ku Arts
“Walking in Dunjiba is inspired by our community, the landscape, wildflowers and the vibrant colours of Dunjiba. My design is about keeping strong together.” – Carmen Amos, featured artist.
image JARU GIRL DESIGNS FOUNDER BIANCA LONG.
Jaru Girl Designs
“The My Country painting reflects the Jaru Country. The Conkerberry Bush Plum artwork is of a bush plum that is found across the Kimberley. The Archipelago painting is of the Bucceener Archipelgo near Derby, West Kimberley. The Water, Creek and Billabong painting reflects water that is very important for everyone. The River Flowing Onto Mudflats painting represents rivers that flow onto mudflats all around the Kimberley. The Travelling though Country painting shows the different country that we have for travelling to work and to see family and friends and rugged country which is of the Kimberley region.” – Bianca Long, founder.
image YINJAA-BARNI ART CENTRE.
Jina-Jina, by Yinjaa-Barni Art
“The Yinjaa-Barni Art Centre wanted this range to be designed around our principal artist Clifton Mack; in memory of the beautiful artworks he made over the 18 years of painting [from] 2001 to 2019. He was a quiet, highly respected and gentle artist for whom painting brought great pleasure. His works are admired by many.”
image CINDY ROSTRON FOR MARRAWUDDI ART CENTRE AND INJALAK ART CENTRE COLLABORATION WITH NORTH HOME TEXTILES. PHOTO BY TIFFANY PARKER.
Marrawuddi Art Centre and Injalak Art Centre collaboration with North Home Textiles
“I’m honoured to be a part of the Stone Country Collection and have the opportunity to design something so close to me. I feel really proud to be working alongside artists, Graham, Kabbindi, Gabriel and Robbie. Working at Marrawuddi I’m lucky enough to work alongside these artists and have seen the hard work that goes into creating these amazing artworks. Learning from these artists has given me the opportunity to learn more about my culture and our ancestors, which I’m really proud of.
“The design that I have made is very close to my heart, Ngurrungurrudjba (
mirarr.net | injalak.com | northhome.org
image COURTESY OF MOYDRA DESIGNS.
“I continue to create my art on canvas, jewellery and fabrics to keep my culture alive and strong. My jewellery is collected from Wagait Beach, [things] such as bush seeds, washed-up rope, mangrove wood and driftwood. My fashion designs reflect the unique tropical climate of Darwin, Northern Territory.” – Yvonne Odegaard, designer.
images COURTESY OF NGALI.
Ngali by Denni Francisco with prints adapted from the work of Lindsay Malay
“Together we create. As a Wiradjuri woman, creating Ngali is a journey embedded in reflexivity and culture. When I began, I reflected on what fashion as a platform could do to celebrate our culture to a wider audience and how our participation in the fashion industry could help change mindsets about fashion consumption and respect for Country.” – Denni Francisco
“I knew when I saw artists screen printing that it was something I wanted to do and I have been doing it ever since – that was 30 years ago! This knowledge has been instilled in us from a young age, which has allowed us to continue our connection to our land and tell our stories about our Country by creating unique textile pieces. Each piece has a unique story, relating back to our ancestors through the way my mother has taught me, which is now being taught to my children and grandchildren.” – Naomi Briston
image PAPULANKUTJA FABRICS.
Papulankutja Artists collaboration with Black Cat Couture
“As artists from Papulankutja and Mantamarru (Blackstone and Jameson), we love to paint and share ancestral stories in vivid colours. As a designer, I love to make clothes that celebrate fabric designs respectfully and are colourful with a sense of fun. The designs lend themselves beautifully to a collection with a retro vibe. We feel as artists, fabric designers and a clothing and fashion designer, we are a wonderful match.”
images TIWI DESIGNS COLLABORATION WITH OSSOM.
Tiwi Designs collaboration with Ossom
“Olga from Ossom approached us to use our printed fabric designs. Olga was keen to work with our ‘SistaGal models’. A tasteful collection was produced rendering feminine lines oozing both class and sass!” – Steve Anderson, Tiwi Designs manager.
tiwidesigns.com | ossom.com.au
images (left to right) DELANY GRIFFITHS, WARINGARRI ABORIGINAL ARTS, PHOTO COURTESY OF GRACE LILLIAN LEE AND CHRIS BAKER; WARINGARRI ABORIGINAL ARTS, PHOTO COURTESY OF SARAH DUGUID.
Waringarri Aboriginal Arts
“The Boonkaj Collection is inspired by bush tucker. Boonkaj means “coming out” in Miriwoong and, as young artists, we wanted to learn more about bush tucker and learn from our old people like my grandmother Peggy Griffiths. We wanted to see our fabrics made into clothes. I modelled many of them and I enjoyed dressing up and showing off our designs.” – Anita Churchill, artist.
Join us in bringing Australian Indigenous fashion to the world! You can be part of the Australian Indigenous fashion movement by donating to the Indigenous Fashion Projects. Peppermint is proud to be a Founding Supporter.