3 Aboriginal Australian Designers (plus Indigenous Fashion Week Coming in 2014)

Aboriginal model for AIFW

The Southern Hemisphere is certainly stepping up in the sustainable style stakes! First, New Zealand announced their very first ethical fashion week, and now the countdown is on for Australia’s inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week (AIFW), being held in April 2014. AIFW is all about showcasing the best of aboriginal Australian design from across the continent, celebrating the world’s oldest surviving continuous culture—on the catwalk. Fronted by well-known Australian model Samantha Harris, the week is going to be one of Sydney’s most stylish.

The goals of AIFW are not just about what’s on the runway. It’s equally about ideals beyond fashion like a focus on fair trade, supporting the economic development of Indigenous artists and highlighting ethical practice.

Here, we take a look at three of the emerging designers who will get the chance to showcase down under in 2014.

Girl in desert in Kaninda dress

Aboriginal designer dress

Lilla Gagliano

Lilla Gagliano is the creative force behind Kaninda, a stylish label from Australia’s western state. Lilla has both Indigenous and Italian heritage and her designs reflect her passion for both her cultural heritage and the world of fashion. She also draws inspiration from living in the beautiful Pilbara country. A textile and batik designer, she produces her own fabrics (including hand painted silks!). Even though Kaninda was born in 2004, Lilla’s debut collection didn’t show until Perth Fashion Week 2012, but received positive reviews.

Orange designer dress

Model in Natalie Cunningham design

Natalie Cunningham

Hailing from Australia’s aptly named Sunshine Coast, Natalie’s Indigenous and Greek heritage influence her unique design. Initially, she started out as a model, but it wasn’t long before she turned her hand to design, launching her eponymous label in 2006 at just 24. Famous for her love of eccentric fabrics and her homage to the 80s through the use of pops of exciting color, Natalie certainly does things differently. She is also committed to supporting positive images of women in fashion, particularly given her experience as a model. Rumor has it this talented designer is set to release an Indigenous swimwear and resort wear line in early 2014.

Caressa top and leggings

Woman wearing Caressa shirt

Caressa Sengstock

Caressa is the edgy, unique fashion label from Caressa Sengstock. Caressa began working in the fashion industry in 2009, around the same time as she started to take art classes, which tapped into her creative flair. All of her fashion pieces have been inspired by her own paintings, depicting ancient Dreamtime stories. Her skills really got noticed when a Rainbow Serpent dress that she designed turned heads at the Indigenous Awards night in Sydney. Following this, she was then asked to design a dress for an Australian music awards night and from there, she really took off. One of her recent collections, Spirit Tree, depicts a Dreamtime story about the journey from death to heaven, in which the use of sequins represent the dots in the roots of the tree, as souls traveling into the trunk. The way she pays tribute to ancient stories through contemporary design is just one way this designer stands out.

Images: Caressa, Natalie Cunningham, Kaninda, AIFW

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