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From Country to Couture | Meet the Designers

"From Country to Couture" celebrates the marriage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contemporary fine art and high-end fashion. The success of the textile design movement in remote Indigenous communities has led to exciting collaborations with well known Australian designers. This year, DAAF are proud to present two spectacular shows on August 7th…

by The AFC

26 July 2019


From Country to Couture

"From Country to Couture" celebrates the marriage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contemporary fine art and high-end fashion. The success of the textile design movement in remote Indigenous communities has led to exciting collaborations with well known Australian designers. This year, DAAF were proud to present two spectacular shows on August 7th.

The Gorman & Mangkaja Arts Collection showcased 40 looks featuring the artwork of artists from Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia. The From Country to Couture showcase celebrated its 4th year, with eight remarkable boutique collections designed and crafted in collaboration remote community Art Centres.

Get to know the designers below!




Designer | VERNER

Artist | Lisa Waup

This project presents a collaboration between award-winning Gunditjmara and Torres Strait Islander artist Lisa Waup and Melbourne based fashion designer Ingrid Verner to create a collection of garments and accessories entitled ‘Journeys’. This is the second collection for Waup and VERNER who first debuted at Melbourne fashion week in 2017. At its core, this collection represents journeys through history, family and friendship. It reflects connections to Country, past, present and future, and the connections between us all. The collection drew upon three original works by Waup – Continuity, Tracing History and Eyes of Our Ancestors.


Designer | NORTH

Art Centre | Munupi Arts and Crafts Association, Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association and Ngaruwanajirri Arts

NORTH has created a striking collection that carries the stories of Tiwi country, culture and women’s strength. Nestled on the shores of the Tiwi Islands, off the coast of Darwin, artists of Pirlangimpi, Milikapiti and Wurrumiyanga share stories of their connection to country through jilamara (design). This collaboration of senior female artists from Munupi, Jilamara and Ngaruwanajirri Art Centres along with their families, invite you to embrace their culture and wear it with pride. This collection features the work of Cornelia Tipuamantumirri, Nina Puruntatameri, Bernadette Mungatopi, Michelle Bush, Kaye Brown, Dymphna Kerinaiua, Jane Margaret Tipuamantumirri, Alfonso Puautjimi and Alexandrina Kantilla.


Designer | Aly de Groot

Art Centre | Anindilyakwa Arts

Bush Dye Collection 2019

Anindilyakwa Arts debuted on the From Country to Couture catwalk with their 2018 Bush Dye Collection which celebrated plant dyed wearable art, ghost net jewellery, baskets and bags. Since then, their exquisite designs have featured on the catwalk at Jakarta Fashion Week.

Organic and oceanic, Anindilyakwa Arts 2019 Bush Dye Collection resonates with the essence of floating seaweed and the colours of the rocks from their beloved country on Groote Eylandt. The Anindilyakwa women’s strong spirit of innovation shines through. Bush dyes used traditionally to colour pandanus for weaving are applied to sumptuous silks. New colour palates, inspired by their travels in Indonesia, have been embraced as well as explorations into digital printing on silk chiffon.


Art Centre | Tangentyere Artists and Yarrenyty Arltere Artists

Arrweketye Mob: Women Mob

This collection is from women who live in Alice Springs Town Camps. Six looks are from Yarrenyty Arltere Artists, including Trudy Inkamala, Rhonda Sharpe and Marlene Rubuntja, who are renowned for their soft sculptures, embroidery, natural dying and cyanotypes. Two looks are collaboratives from Ewyenper Atwatye Artists, including Daphne Mulkabana, Carol Young and Loretta Neil, working from Hidden Valley Town Camp. The final two looks are from Tangentyere Artists; Sally Mulda who lives at Abbotts Camp and Grace Robinya who lives at Trucking Yards. Yarrenyty Arltere have made one off pieces before, but for most of the artists this is their first foray into fashion.


Art Centre | Bima Wear

Designer | Clair Helen

Bima Wear's 50th anniversary collection pays tribute to five decades of Tiwi women's excellence in designing and manufacturing the Territory's first fashion label, Bima Wear. This collection for DAAF 2019 is a collaboration with Tiwi fashion designer Clair Helen. ClairHelen is a Tiwi fashion designer from the Northern Territory who presently resides in Western Australia. The collection mixes high fashion and street wear garments, built from assorted base cloths and treatments, and featuring original and new Bima Wear designs of traditional symbols, structures, family and environmental elements that are central to Tiwi culture. The collection represents Bima Wear's commitment to a future where Tiwi women and girls feel free to express their culture and future aspirations.


Art Centre | Marnin Studio

Designer | Design Within Country

Design Within Country is a collaboration between five language groups in the Fitzroy Valley, and four young designers from Melbourne, walking together and sharing creative talents, professional, and cultural knowledge.
The 2019 collection is inspired by the wet season, using a palette of charcoals, soft blues, greens and sunburst gold. This year the Fitzroy designers have included male pieces, adding a local street feel. All looks are bush dyed, printed, and sewn in the local community using beautiful natural fibres. Design Within Country creates a real buzz in the valley, providing on the ground opportunities to explore passions and create social businesses.


Art Centre | Bula'bula Aboriginal Art Corporation

Designer | Julie Shaw, MAARA Collective

Debuting at 'From Country to Couture' 2019, the MAARA collection is a collaboration of fashion and accessories; co-created between Yuwaalaraay fashion designer Julie Shaw of MAARA Collective and the artists of Bula’bula Arts in Ramingining, north east Arnhem Land.

 Yolngu master weavers Mary Dhapalany, Evonne Munuyngu and Margaret Malibirr of Bula'bula Arts have created a stunning range of bespoke hats, belts and bags using traditional techniques to complement the luxury resort wear line. The accessories are hand-woven using natural materials and dyes harvested from the surrounding bushlands of Ramingining and styled back with the collection; showcasing ancient knowledge through a contemporary fashion platform. 

 The collection has also been supported through the mentorship and collaboration of acclaimed Melbourne milliner Kerrie Stanley, who has generously offered her expertise in the styling and finishing of the woven headpieces.


Designer | Ngali

Artist & Art Centre | Lindsay Malay from Warmun Art Centre

Collection Name | 'My Country'

The 'My Country' collection is a collaboration between Warmun Art Centre Gija artist Lindsay Malay and Melbourne based Indigenous fashion label Ngali. It is a celebration of Country, culture and creativity, taking art beyond the canvas and textile design onto country. Having met at the 2018 Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, Lindsay and Wiradjuri woman, Denni Francisco worked together, with the support of Warmun Art Centre, to translate Lindsay's inspiring artworks in a considered and respectful way, onto silk clothing. The clothing is designed to be ageless and timeless, as is their cultures. Part of this collaboration was launched at a sell-out art exhibition and runway event in Melbourne in April 2019.


Designer | Wendy Crow

Art Centre | Kaiela Arts Shepparton

Collection Name | Yurri Wala Kaiela – Fresh Water River

“Yurri Wala Kaiela – Fresh Water River” collection focuses on Kaiela Arts’ location in North Central Victoria, in the Goulburn (Kaiela) River Valley where they have very hot Summers and cold frosty Winters. Fresh water flows from the rain, and snow melts from the Great Dividing Range and nourishes the valley and its people, as it meanders its way to the great Murray (Dungula) River. This year’s collection is inspired by the nourishment of the river, the warmth and protection provided by a Possum Skin Cloak against the cold and the colours of the majestic River Red Gums, the subtle hues of the terracotta clay, the gentle flow of the fresh water, and the fishing and hunting traditions associated with this Fresh Water River Country.


Yinjaa-Barni Designs - From Designer | Patricia Floyd and Art Centre | Yinjaa-Barni Art

Yinjaa-Barni Designs is a collection of expertly designed wearable artworks that celebrate the identity and strong relationship the artists have to culture and Yinjibarndi Country in Western Australia. These garments are made from all-natural fabrics and are digitally printed with the beautiful designs of Yinjaa-Barni paintings. Yinjaa-Barni Designs is an art centre generated project, with the fabric and garment designs created in-house. Art centre manager and couture designer/seamstress Patricia Floyd works closely with the artists to create clothing that showcases contemporary Aboriginal identity and the artists’ strong individual styles. Yinjaa-Barni Designs is a meaningful expression of culture and is increasingly essential to the economic independence of the art centre and the Roebourne community.


THE gorman & mangkaja arts collection


Mangkaja Arts x Gorman Collection

This season, Gorman has teamed up with one of Australia’s most remote art centres, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency in Western Australia, to produce a collaborative collection. The collaboration is Gorman’s first with Indigenous artists and saw the Copyright Agency negotiate what has been billed as a national benchmark in fashion licensing rights for the adaptation of the Mangkaja artists’ works.

Mangkaja artists are renowned for their uninhibited style, innovation in new medium and lively use of colour, which fits perfectly with Gorman’s bright aesthetic. This dynamic collaborative project has highlighted the strengths of both partners, respecting Indigenous cultural protocols at each stage, creating opportunity to reach new audiences and economic development for Indigenous Australian artists.

Artworks of five senior Mangkaja artists feature in the Mangkaja x Gorman collection: Ngarralja Tommy May, Sonia Kurarra, Daisy Japulija, Nada Tigila Rawlins and Lisa Uhl. With the collaboration over two years in the making, sadly towards the end of the project development Ms Lisa Uhl and Mrs Nada Rawlins passed away. Both women’s artworks have been exhibited and collected nationally and internationally, and their families have honoured their wishes to have their work included in the Mangkaja x Gorman collection in recognition of their contribution to the Australian contemporary art scene.

Gorman will donate funds from the sales of the collection to support youth programs and further youth development through Mangkaja Art Centre to the youth of Fitzroy Valley, WA.


Words and Images courtesy of DAAF


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