In case you missed it, we launched Urban List Sustainability last week and with that, we are so proud to introduce our new series The Day I Woke Up. We’ll be chatting with everyone from the quiet heroes to the outspoken activists about how they’re having a positive impact on the world, and what you can do to contribute to the cause.
We couldn’t be more excited to kick off the series with Regina Jones, better known as Ginny of Ginny’s Girl Gang. If you don’t know the name yet, you probably remember the jacket Celeste Barber wore to the Fire Fight Australia Concert. A proud Gomeroi/Gamilaraay woman, Ginny started out making jackets with a voice (not to mention some pretty epic art), but her range is quickly expanding to include sweatshirts, tee and overalls too.
So grab a cuppa and settle in as we chat about fashion with a purpose.
Let’s start from the beginning. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Growing up I always wanted to be an actress, I always felt like the Arts was home for me. Obviously that changed. I ended up studying to become a teacher, didn’t love it and found my way back to the Arts.
Ginny’s Girl Gang was born after painting a custom jacket for a friend, did you always have a creative streak and/or the desire to give a voice and meaning to your projects.
Yeah absolutely. Being an Indigenous woman, I really feel like storytelling, art, music and creating is in our blood. I also come from a family full of artists so painting has always come incredibly naturally to me. I am proud of who I am and my people. I want to make sure that behind the visuals of our culture there is a story to be told, a lesson to be learnt and voices to be heard. Being able to use art as a platform to talk about things that are important to our culture felt like the right thing to do and so here I am. This way a conversation may start, whether it’s at home, or in public or in your head I don’t mind… Just as long as it happens.
What was painted on that first jacket?
My first jacket was for my friend who is a proud Indigenous musician. I was really inspired by the Kendrick Lamar song “DNA”. I really believe that our peoples DNA is so special, we have ties back to this country 60,000+ years ago. We are the original “Royalty”. The jacket I put together my friend was just that. A jacket for a Queen, a jacket for Royalty.
Your jackets are an amazing avenue to raise awareness about Indigenous culture. Was there a ‘day you woke up’—an experience or event—that made you realise you couldn’t sit back and say nothing anymore? Or have you always been an advocate for Indigenous rights?
Yeah, I think I was in high school when I first had a conversation with my Nanna about the stolen generation. I remember at school I tried not to stand out, I didn’t speak too loud, I didn’t want to bring attention to myself. I didn’t want anyone to notice that I was different, that my skin was darker, that I was Aboriginal. After my talk with my Nanna and seeing her cry, the hurt in her eyes, the longing for a stronger connection to culture it was at that point I decided I would never silence myself, my pride, who I am, for anyone. We have already done enough of that, for generations we were forced to be silent. It stops here with me. If I feel like something needs to be said, then I’ll say it. If I hear something that doesn’t sit right, then I’ll let you know. I go to bed and sleep well knowing who I am and what I stand for. We have lots of work to be done and lots of conversations to be had but we show up. We’re ready for change.
What do you want your jackets to achieve?
A thought. A conversation. An opinion. Change. Love. Pride. Culture. Existence. Heard.
It seems like a lifetime ago now, but what went through your mind when you found out Celeste Barber would be wearing one of your jackets to the Fire Fight Australia concert?
I was so happy seeing a non-Indigenous person of Celeste’s celebrity standing up there in front of 70,000 people and then broadcasted to millions sharing our message. We maintained this country for tens of thousands of years, we too are hurting that our homes were lost but bigger than that our country was hurting, our ancestors, our old people are hurting. Our connection to country is so important, there is much that I think wider Australia needs to hear and learn from us.
You were set to go to LA Fashion week in March before it was postponed because of Coronavirus. What’s the new plan and how are you dealing with the curveballs thrown at you by COVID-19?
It’s been hard but also sort of puts things into perspective. We need to look after ourselves first and foremost, so I try not to let these things stop me from being creative. It’s given me some time to reflect and plan and also think about how much further I can reach people. With that being said, every day is different, some days I can’t do anything and other days I’m super productive but I think that’s normal, what’s happening right now isn’t normal. So I’m just taking each day as it comes.
Who/what is your biggest inspiration?
My family, my sisters, my tiddas (sisters) all around the Country who wake up, pull themselves together and are strong for the rest of their family.
Which other Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers should we be watching out for?
What’s next for Ginny’s Girl Gang?
I think just focusing on things that are more sustainable and are kind to our environment, more jackets, outerwear and messages.
Check out Urban List Sustainability for more ways to do good.
Image credit: Ginny's Girl Gang