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New awards put Indigenous designers in the spotlight

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island designers are being celebrated in the inaugural National Indigenous Fashion Awards (NIFA).

Run by the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation (DAAFF), the shortlist of nominees has just been revealed across several categories including Textile Design, Community Collaboration, Fashion Design and Environmental and Social Contribution. 

Among the 33 nominated designers and artists include Lillardya Allirra Briggs-Houston from Ngarru Miimi; Selina Nadjowh from Injalak Arts Centre; Liandra Gaykamangu from Liandra Swim; Julie Shaw from MAARA Collective and more.

“The awards celebrate the unique and incredible diversity that is First Nations fashion and design in Australia, but it’s also building capacity and capability for those that are in the industry or trying to enter it,” NIFA creative director Nina Fitzgerald told Inside Retail

Prizes include opportunities for small business development, industry mentoring, financial support, promotion and skills development by major public institutions and key fashion media.

“The fashion industry is a beast and it’s a pretty challenging place from all angles. It’s challenging to be a small business owner, it’s challenging to go through the supply chain, marketing and comms is a massive job in itself. NIFA is building people’s skills and abilities to keep thriving and striving in this industry and really stand up in the mainstream fashion industry,” Fitzgerald continued.

NIFA judges include Leila Naja Hibri, CEO at the Australian Fashion Council; Yatu Widders Hunt, founder of curated Instagram account @AusIndigenous Fashion; Ursula Raymond, deputy treaty commissioner at the Northern Territory Treaty Commission and Maria Rinaldi-Cant, head of design at Country Road. 

A live broadcast of the ceremony will take place on 5 August on NITV.

Smashing stereotypes through swimwear

NIFA nominee and sustainable swimwear designer Liandra Gaykamangu launched her label less than three years ago and has since garnered international coverage and recently opened the prestigious Pacific Runway Fashion Show. One of the brand’s aims is to raise awareness of the diversity and creativity of the Indigenous community. 

“There’s absolutely a stigma around where we’re supposed to be seen. At a trade show, someone said to me, ‘Oh, you want to be in a tourist shop in Sydney.’ No, that’s not where I want to be because that’s not my product. I have a high quality product. I want to be in a surf shop or Myer or David Jones, Surf Dive ‘n’ Ski – those are my people. Not the airport,” Gaykamangu told Inside Retail.

“That conversation stayed with me for a long time. People are going to have to get comfortable with the idea that we don’t always have to be in tourist shops and art galleries.”

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