First Nations Fashion
Image: River reeds block print, Designer: Warringarri Arts, Model: Anita Churchill, Photography: @Chrisbakerthefilmmaker. All images courtesy of First Nations Fashion & Design.
First Nations Fashion & Design (FNFD) is a campaigning organisation supporting indigenous designers in Australia. As National co-ordinator Teagan Cowlishaw explains, “FNFD is a first of its kind, being entirely 100% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and board members. The organisation's goals are to support the community but also develop a Fashion initiative that is run by mob for mob. FNFD is not going to be a short-term goal or one-off project, we will be a legacy for our community and the next generation.” We asked Cowlishaw to tell us more about FNFD’s work.
How does FNFD support Indigenous artists?
FNFD noticed there was a gap in the industry, where the platforms and programs are designed around art and art centre models. FNFD has been designed to fill that gap and support independent indigenous designers. This initiative will help develop entrepreneurs and independent brands rather than artists or art centres collaboration. FNFD will develop internal indigenous fashion policy and strategies to put into place directives to create change within our industry. This will give access for the community and FNFD designers to have platforms and gain exposure for their voices to be heard.
What makes us different to other fashion platforms is that we engage indigenous community members to have input. That their opinions and stories will help shape and direct how we can develop a new ecosystem and approach this new and ever-growing sector that needs focused attention.
Image: Designer: Elverina Johnson. Photography: @pamelapirovic for @UTS.
Could you tell us about design mentorship and why it's important?
FNFD designer mentorship program is unique, where we will provide platforms and opportunities and a gateway to the mainstream Australian fashion industry. Including economic development through entrepreneurship and preservation through acquisition. Plus provide continuous support after the program through mentorship plus providing a common space to connect and gain advice through our FNFD yarning circle.
FNFD has been created because there is nothing out there for independent designers within the fashion industry. As the next generation, we feel its important to build self determination and empowerment through skills development and educational programs. Plus provide opportunities that are inclusive for First Nations designers, textile artists, performers, models and creatives around the nation. Giving independent designers brand exposure, access to national platforms and raising awareness of their brands and designer voices.
FNFD has been set up to separate ourselves from the Arts industry. So we can continue the conservation of family story-lines through different mediums such as textile design and fashion. As well as helping textile artists understand ownership by retaining IP copyrights and the preservation of cultural practices.
For more information visit www.firstnationsfashiondesign.com
So happy when I see articles like this that show how an effort of inclusivity in fashion/ textile and craft arts can only contribute to making the overall industry stronger. Not only do we need to have representation of the full spectrum of artists/craft persons to enrich our industries, but also, to acknowledge and showcase the talents of those left behind, stolen from or downplayed in areas of our industry, our art and our society.