above JESSICA MAUBOY BY WAYNE QUILLIAM
August is an exciting time to be in the Top End. Alongside the epic Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) from 11–13 August, Indigenous Fashion Projects (IFP) celebrates First Nations fashion and design with two incredible events: the Country to Couture runway on Tuesday 8 August and the National Indigenous Fashion Awards (NIFA) on Wednesday 9 August.
Supported by the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation (DAAFF), IFP is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned and managed collective that works with First Nations designers – offering development pathways, mentoring and the chance to show at events like Country to Couture and NIFA.
top MANDY MALBUNKA, ILTJA NTJARRA (MANY HANDS) ART CENTRE left YARRABAH ARTS & CULTURAL PRECINCT X SIMONE ARNOL 2022 right CINDY ROSTRON WEARS PIECES FROM ‘A BEAUTIFUL CHAOS’ COLLECTION BY KYLIE CALDWELL IN COLLABORATION WITH SPELL BY MARLEY MORGAN
This year’s Country to Couture event will showcase the brightest in First Nations wearable art, fashion and textile design, as 23 unique collections take to the runway in two packed shows. For DAAFF’s artistic director, Shilo McNamee, the shows offer an amazing example of the marriage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and high-end fashion.
“These events are recognised globally and in Australia’s Indigenous communities for celebrating and propelling designers to new heights, while maintaining an authentic and grassroots feel,” Shilo says. “These are special fashion events steeped in over 60,000 years of culture and heritage, but also showcase some of the most contemporary designs in the country.”
These are special fashion events steeped in over 60,000 years of culture and heritage.
Similarly, NIFA recognises and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and fashion designers, with the winners announced in a sunset ceremony at Darwin’s Deckchair Cinema that’s also broadcast on NITV. This year’s awards have seen a record number of entries, with more than 60 nominees across the six categories that include recognition for business achievement, wearable art and community collaboration.
Working with IFP since 2022, when she performed at their second Indigenous Fashion Projects Runway at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, DAAFF community ambassador Jessica Mauboy has a soft spot for her hometown of Darwin so we caught up with her to chat all things DAAF and First Nations fashion.
above JESSICA MAUBOY BY WAYNE QUILLIAM
You’re going into your second year as the community ambassador for DAAFF. Tell us a bit about how the relationship began…
DAAFF is best known for its vibrant platforms and support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the arts and fashion industries. As a proud Kuku Yalanji and Wakaman woman and creative myself, it was an easy yes from me when the foundation asked me to return this year as their community ambassador.
Collaborating with the foundation means I can shine a light on the amazing First Nations talent coming from some of the most remote regions across Australia. I’m so grateful that this role has allowed me to give back to the community and other Indigenous artists, designers and creatives.
I vividly recall the excitement it created in the community and throughout the Top End.
As someone who was raised in Darwin, what does the fair mean to you personally?
DAAF holds a very special place in my heart. Although I was quite young when the first fair took place in 2007, I vividly recall the excitement it created in the community and throughout the Top End. All my friends and their families who lived locally would get excited to go together and enjoy it.
The fair is deeply meaningful to me, not only because it celebrates and empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, designers and culture on Larrakia Country, but also for the essential role it plays in expanding opportunities and providing exposure for Indigenous artists and creatives in Australia and around the world.
How would you describe the atmosphere of Darwin during DAAF?
It creates an electric atmosphere in Darwin. With visitors from remote communities, major cities, and other countries all together in one place, the space comes alive with stalls, great music, dance performances, delicious food and interactive activities. I’m so excited to be a part of the physical events this year as DAAFF’s ambassador.
Why do you think it’s important for non-Indigenous people to attend events like DAAF?
DAAF offers non-Indigenous attendees a unique opportunity to learn from industry leaders about the world’s oldest culture throughout the three-day program with cultural workshops, demonstrations, and discussions.
Importantly, the fair also provides an ethical way to purchase Indigenous artworks and fashion items, with all sales going directly back to art centres, First Nations artists and designers, and the communities they represent.
I can’t wait to see the incredible designs of First Nations creatives on the runway fusing creativity, colour, and culture into an unforgettable experience.
What’s on your must-do list for this year’s fair?
With so many exciting events happening in August, it’s tough to choose just one! Along with the fair itself, I’m especially excited about attending the Country to Couture shows. I can’t wait to see the incredible designs of First Nations creatives on the runway fusing creativity, colour, and culture into an unforgettable experience.