Fashion

5 First Nations Designers Making Waves At AAFW This Year

By James Parr

James Parr is Urban List’s 2023 guest editor. A Wiradjuri man, James is a force to be reckoned with. An education support and welfare officer, a model, actor, triathlete and disability advocate, he captured the nation's attention on the runway at two of the most pivotal moments in Australia’s fashion history—sporting JAM The Label at the Adaptive Clothing Collective show at AAFW and wearing Paul McCann and Clothing The Gaps at the First Nations Fashion + Design Show.

This week, Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) 2023 kicks off and for First Nations designers and creatives, it’s one of the biggest spotlights of the year to showcase their work.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the significance and influence of First Nations fashion and design. Indigenous designers have been breaking barriers, challenging stereotypes, and reshaping the fashion landscape with their innovative designs, sustainable practices and rich cultural heritage.

As a highly-anticipated event in the Australian fashion calendar, AAFW is not only a platform for unveiling cutting-edge trends but an opportunity to celebrate diversity and inclusion within the industry. Jam-packed with a total of 45 designer runways to take place throughout the week, this year AAFW will feature 11 incredible First Nations designers who bring their unique stories, culture, and creativity to the forefront of the fashion world.

Spoiler alert, after its debut runway two years ago, Ngali will become Afterpay Australian Fashion Week’s first ever standalone First Nations runway—which is huge. And in case you missed it, Ikuntji Artists is an Aboriginal art centre located in the remote community of Central Australia that will become the first art centre to rep a solo runway at AAFW.

Read on for the First Nations designers guaranteed to make waves at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week this year. 

Liandra Swim 

a person wearing swimwear and standing next to a tree

Liandra Swim is founded and creative directed by Yolngu woman, Liandra Gaykamangu. No stranger to AAFW, Liandra Swim was named a changemaker for AAFW in 2022. Gaykamangu’s signature prints are inspired by Aboriginal Australian culture, where each collection represents a unique story, and I cannot wait to see this year’s collection.

Liandra Swim will be a featured designer in the Next Gen runway at 2pm, Friday 19 May.

Gali Swimwear

a person wearing swimmers and diving into the ocean

Gali Swimwear is a relatively new brand that caught my eyes last year with its beautifully designed swimwear for men. Gali fuses Australia’s First Nations culture with sustainable men’s swimwear and was founded on Bondi Beach by David Leslie, a proud Kamilaroi man. In Kamilaroi language, Gali means ‘water’. Creating Gali Swimwear is David’s way to connect his love for the water with his culture and I am beyond keen to see its debut at AAFW. 

Gali Swimwear will be shown at David Jones Indigenous Fashion Projects runway at 8pm, Wednesday 17 May.

Ngali

a person wearing a dress and standing on a brick fence

After its debut runway two years ago, Ngali will become Afterpay Australian Fashion Week’s first ever standalone First Nations runway. Ngali’s collection features beautiful and practical pieces celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artwork and has a stunning colour palette. In several Aboriginal languages, Ngali means “we” or “us”. Ngali’s mission is to create that ‘us’ through fashion, with a harmonious, sustainable, and equitable alliance of people with country and each other.  

Ngali’s first stand-alone runway will show on at 10am on Wednesday 17 May.

Gammin Threads 

a person wearing a tshirt and glasses and lying in glitter

Gammin Threads is another brand making their debut at AAFW this year and I honestly couldn’t be more excited! Founder of Gammin Threads, Tahnee Edwards, a Yorta Yorta, Taungurung, Boonwurrung and Mutti Mutti woman brought the label to life out of her love of typography language and pure Blak pride. It consists of streetwear and accessories with the powerful message to live colourful and paying respect and empowering women. Gammin Threads’ new collection is set to be bright and bold so definitely isn’t one to miss.

Gammin Threads will be shown at David Jones Indigenous Fashion Projects runway at 8pm, Wednesday 17 May.

Ikuntji Artists

a person wearing a frock and posing

Ikuntji Artists is also set to do their first stand-alone runway this year at AAFW. Ikuntji Artists is an Aborignal art centre located in the remote community of Central Australia, making them the first art centre to present at AAFW. Their clothing showcases the talents and cultural heritage of the Haasts Bluff community in the Western Desert and through this show, their aim is not just fashion. It is about recognising and acknowledging the strength and resilience of the Indigenous community of Haasts Bluff. The collection has come as a collaboration with creative director, Ana Keshan; a Yorta Yorta, Gomeroi, Wiradjuri woman. 

Ikuntji Artists will show at 3pm, Thursday 18 May.

Image credit: Liandra Swim, Gali Swimwear, Ngali, @ldvphoto, Ikuntji Artists

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