The History-Making First Nations Fashion + Design Showcase Was AAFW’s Most Moving Show

Felicia Foxx
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You can expect to have sore feet at Fashion Week, you can expect to feel inspired at Fashion Week, and you can expect to feel exhausted running on coffee at Fashion Week, but never did I expect a show to leave me in tears at Fashion Week.

On Wednesday, June 2, the First Nations Fashion + Design show made history when seven Indigenous designers showcased collections at a Fashion Week in Sydney, on Gadigal Land. The show took place on the 29th anniversary of the historic Mabo decision.

The creative practitioners and their labels included Amber Days by Corina Muir; Aarli by Teagan Cowlishaw; Clair Helen; Ngarru Miimi by Lillardia Allirra Briggs-Houston; Keema Co. by Nickeema Williams; Nungala Creative by Jessica Johnson; Sown in Time by Lynelle Flinders, and artist Grace Lillian Lee.

But in fact, every single person involved in the show — from the hair and makeup artists to the performers and models — were First Nations creatives, in another first for Australian Fashion Week.

“On Gadigal land today, assembled an entire First Nations cast and crew for their showcase at #AAFW,” a post on the official Australian Fashion Week Instagram reads.

“The show was a celebration of First Nations culture, creativity and sovereignty, that left many of the audience in tears.”

After a moving Welcome to Country from Jarron Andy, the show opened with an awe-inspiring musical performance by Willam Barton, Australia’s leading didgeridoo player, composer and vocalist, who set the tone for the show in a set design of eucalyptus and native florals deigned by Sydney floral artist, Libby Emerson.

Musical artist DRMNGNOW performed his song Indigenous Land during the showcase while dancers Luke Currie-Richardson and Cleopatra Pryce moved around the walking models.

The show was concluded with a tear-jerking performance by Electric Fields, who sang Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody’s From Little Things Big Things Grow. In a moving finale, all models emerged on the runway to pour out a handful of sand in unison. It was an impactful and truly moving display that left everyone applauding on their feet, many with tears in their eyes.

The raw and emotional backstage response to the show’s success was heard as an inspired crowd moved out of Carriageworks and onto the week’s next events.

The sheer power of the showcase is resounding, and its profound impact on Indigenous representation in the Australian fashion scene will be remembered for years and years to come.

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