Country to Couture is a great showcase of Indigenous fashion design

Celebrating the marriage of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and high-end fashion.

In August 2016, the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) launched the first edition of what was to become one of Australia’s top fashion attractions – the From country to couture designer showcase. In collaboration with experienced fashion designers, First Nations designers put together the first edition of the collaborative fashion show.

While Darwin was not widely known as a coveted fashion destination, the launch of Country to Couture opened the country up to the stunning world of First Nations design. “There’s so much work going into it, there’s so many stories…it’s really where fashion evolves. We want more stories in our mode. Explain the show’s creative director, Mehali Tsangaris.


Discover more local designers in our Fashion section.


And Mehali was right. As the Country to Couture showcase enters its sixth year, Australia’s creative community will be tuned in to celebrate the marriage of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and high-end fashion. Always alongside the DAAF as part of its Indigenous fashion projects (IFP), the lively parade will take place tonight on the land of Larrakia – this time backed by iconic Australian lifestyle brand, Countryside road.

From humble beginnings to the media scene, the showcase has provided a valuable creative platform for textile designers from remote Indigenous communities. As Executive Director of DAAF, Claire said Ragtrader in 2015, “Country to Couture celebrates contemporary fashion and textiles from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian artists and designers, and recognizes collaborations where Aboriginal agency is at the forefront.”

Weaving timeless stories into beautifully modern and wearable creations, this year’s range is an eclectic mix of pioneering collections from Indigenous designers, well-known labels and new artists from across Australia. Promising a spectacular display of culture and creativity, the runway will showcase the best in First Nations-led textile and accessory design.

If you can’t make it to tonight’s event, ease your FOMO with a 2020 track broadcast here and follow BTS snaps and highlights on DAAF instagram. In the meantime, let us introduce you to the star designers and artists who will be parading on the DAAFF catwalk.

Arts Anindilyakwa

Anindilyakwa Arts is a thriving creative center that commissions the work of over 100 local Aboriginal artists. Based in Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, with a focus on empowering local talent, artists at the hub fuse contemporary and historic techniques to create works that include woven baskets with bold hues, bush-dyed tees and earthy tones. silk satin scarves.

anindilyakwaarts.com

Deadly Denim

Deadly Denim uses recycled denim basics and personalizes each piece by embossing designs by First Nations artists from several remote Aboriginal art centres. With the purchase of these recycled clothes (available for purchase on Etsy), part of the profits are donated to Rhodanthe Lipsett Charitable Fund for Aboriginal Midwives, a project that aims to maintain the 40,000-year-old tradition of childbirth in the country.

deadlydenim.com

Dunjiba Fashions by Dunjiba Community Artists supported by Ku Arts

A contemporary capsule of sportswear and bush skirts, these pieces are designed by and for the community. Featuring vibrant textile designs created by Ku Arts artists, the Dunjiba Fashions project is about using textiles and fashion design to realize community ambitions.

anangukuarts.com

Gillawarra Arts

These handmade prints and jewelry created by Worimi woman Krystal Hurst are meticulously crafted and “talk about the sky, the earth, the rivers and the sea”. Hurst’s creations are an ode to freedom of expression and its connection with its ancestors.

gillawarraarts.com

Swimming Ihraa

Swimming Ihraa recently launched its first collection, entering the market with a dynamic range of swimwear made from recycled plastics. All of its designs are printed with eco-friendly ink, which, unlike regular ink, does not contain harmful solvents which evaporate and release VOCs, which are harmful to the environment.

@ihraaswim

Jaru Girl

Artist Bianco Long is inspired by vast, lush environments in various corners of the country. Jaru Girl marks her foray into jewelry, poetizing her connection to the regions of the Kimberley region, in particular County of Djaru where she grew up. Line features include jewel colored resins and sterling silver pendants.

jarugirl.com

Art Yinjaa-Barni

A collective of artists mainly A Yindjibarndi-speaking group, the creators of Yinjaa-Barni Art tap into their collective memory to retain impressions of the shape of their homeland. Think intricate canvas depictions of ever-flowing rivers, stoic landscapes, and vibrant wildflowers.

yinjaa-barni.com

Lady’JPau

Founded by a Torres Strait Islander The creations of Jeanette Paul, Lady’JPau are all anchored in a cultural headdress, the dhari. Jeanette has worked to integrate the dhari into everyday contemporary designs, as a way to signal her passion for her culture and encourage others to engage with it.

ladyjpau.com

Marrawuddi Art Center and Injalak Art Center collaboration with North Home Textiles

A triple threat collaboration if we ever saw one! The meeting of these three collectives will see the appearance of eye-catching works inspired by the culture of their local environment. North’s collection weaves the stories of its talented Indigenous artists through its textiles, so expect those sentimental touches to shine through.

marrawuddi.com

injalak.com

northhome.org

Moydra’s designs

Showcasing hand-printed and screen-printed textiles, Moydra Designs is no stranger to showcasing DAAFF fashion, appearing in the 2018 show. Through her work, the designer Yvonne Odegaard seeks to portray what it means to her to be a saltwater woman.

@yvonneodegaard

Ngali

Ngali aims to celebrate Indigenous creativity, using scarves, silk and sheath dresses and knitted vests to showcase the work of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Despite the intricate artwork they often feature, designer Denni Ngali’s pieces are versatile and suitable for everyday use. This year you will see adaptations of the work of Lindsay Malay.

ngali.com.au

Collaboration of artists Papulankutja with Black Cat Couture

Famous for their meticulous carvings in local wood and ingenious fiberwork, Papulankutja Artists are a collective telling traditional stories through locally produced works in Central Australia. The center ease the production of visual arts in a range of media while promoting the professional development and employment of arts workers. At this year’s DAAFF Fashion Showcase, works by artists from Papulankutja will be used in black cat sewingit is designs, injecting the slow fashion advocate’s vintage motifs into the mix.

papulankutja.com.au

Tiwi Design collaboration with Ossum

Tiwi Design prides itself on being one of the oldest and most artistically diverse art centers in the country. Renowned for its ocher paintings and old-fashioned carvings, the art center will collaborate with womenswear brand Ossum for the Country to Couture showcase. We anticipate a collision of quintessential Tiwi designs on Ossum’s natural and recycled fabrics.

tiwidesigns.com

ossom.com.au

Waringarri Aboriginal Arts

Celebrating the cultural identity of Miriwoong Country, Waringarri Aboriginal Arts supports over 100 Aboriginal artists in their pursuit of printmaking, woodcarving, boab carving, painting and more. The artists specialize in ocher paintings, with each piece accompanied by a statement of origin and personal reflections from the artists.

waringarriarts.com

Find more information about featured designers here.

Joseph E. Golightly