Black activism, traditional weaving celebrated at Australia’s NIFA Awards – WWD

SYDNEY — Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives were celebrated at the third annual National Indigenous Fashion Awards, which were announced in Darwin, Northern Territory on Wednesday.

Staged at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair – Australia’s largest First Nations visual arts event, showcasing work from more than 75 Indigenous art centers – the awards recognize and showcase excellence across the categories of fashion and textile design, business, traditional adornment, usable art and community engagement.

Melbourne-based Wiradjuri woman Denni Francisco took out the fashion designer award for the second year in a row, earning her back-to-back 12-month business mentorships with Australian retail chain Country Road.

The Business Achievement Award went to Laura Thompson, the Gunditjmara founder of Melbourne-based Clothing the Gaps, an Aboriginal social enterprise and certified B Corp, which specializes in streetwear emblazoned with activist slogans such as “Aboriginal Land — Tread Lightly” and “Always Was, Always Will Be”, a key slogan of the Australian Indigenous land rights movement. The brand name is a play on Closing the Gap, a health initiative by the Australian Federal Government to help close the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 13: Models walk the runway in a design by Clothing The Gaps during the First Nations Fashion + Design show during the Afterpay Australian Fashion Week 2022 Resort '23 Collections at Carriageworks on May 13, 2022 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Models in looks from NIFA Business Achievement Award winner Clothing the Gaps, during the First Nations Fashion and Design group exhibition at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week on May 13.

Mark Metcalfe

Esther Yarllarlla, a Kunibidji artist working with the Bábbara Women’s Center in Maningrida, Northern Territory, won the Traditional Decoration Award for the women’s Mokko, a traditional skirt made from hand-knotted “bush rope”, while the Community Collaboration Award went to Yankunytjatjara artist Linda Puna of Mimili Maku Arts -collective located on APY Lands (Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, an Aboriginal Local Government Area), and Melbourne-based vegan brand Unreal Fur, for their collaborative collection of puffer jackets and coats featuring Puna’s work.

The textile design award went to Gunggandji and Kuku Yalanji master weaver Philomena Yeatman, for her ‘Yulu Dreaming’ linen print which features images of stingrays and was incorporated into a pair of trousers and a top made by seamstresses at the Yarrabah Arts & Cultural Precinct in Far North Queensland, where Yeatman is based. Better known for her baskets and place mats, which are woven from pandanus leaves and can take anywhere from fourteen to six months to produce, Yeatman created some mini basket earrings to accompany the look.

Black Activism, Traditional Weaving Feed at

Esther Yarllarla (second from right), winner of the Traditional Adornment Award, accompanied by other artists from the Bábbara Women’s Centre, at the National Indigenous Fashion Awards 2022 in Darwin, Australia.

Dylan Buckee

Narrandera, New South Wales-based textile artist and designer Lillardia Briggs-Houston, a Wiradjuri, Yorta Yorta and Gangulu woman, won the Wearable Art Award, for her hand-painted merino wool knit body which is embellished with two meters of river reeds hand-stitched to the neck, a hand-painted and colored skirt with matching head veil.

The judging panel consisted of Yatu Widders-Hunt, a Dunghutti and Anaiwan woman who is a director at Sydney-based specialist Indigenous communications agency Cox Inall Ridgeway; NIFA Creative Director and Head Stylist Perina Drummond, a Meriam Mer woman who is also the founder of Australia’s first Indigenous modeling agency Jira Models; Australian Fashion Council’s head of marketing and communications, Prue-Ellen Thomas, and Country Road’s head of womenswear design, Jacklyn Rivera.

“[NIFA] has really shed light on the diversity of practices that exist in First Nations fashion communities and people working in remote areas, Widders-Hunt said. “It celebrates things that I think are really important to the industry, like collaboration, usable art, respectful storytelling, sustainability. It’s not just about the craft.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.