The Report: Global Indigenous Runway

The Report is a series created to showcase our Fashion Writing finalists. We send our writers to Arts, Ideas and Offsite Runway events to take a closer look at fashion that challenges our preconceived notions of the runway and explore design that takes us to galleries, stage and screen.

The simplest way to describe this year’s Global Indigenous Runway is emotional. Raw and overwhelming emotion. It was felt in the air even prior to the gradual ride down the escalator to the lower ground floor of Melbourne Museum. The greeters, waiting at the top, were radiant - a beaming sense of joy and pride.

The Global Indigenous Runway shared the fashion experiences from many designers with varying backgrounds - from Australian Aboriginal, Maori, Native American, First Nations and Pacific Nations. These designers were given an opportunity to share their stories of creation and emphasise their culture on a VAMFF-scale platform, mentored and encouraged prior. We often hear, “You can’t be what you can’t see;” thus the importance of this event. In creating aspirational pathways for Indigenous people, this is one sure-fire way to put the potential of fashion on the radar.

The models too were an element of overwhelming pride. The fifty beautiful, individual models that took part in the show had never done so before. Although fresh onto the runway, they looked as if they had walked those polished floors many times before. Confident young women strutting, even bikini-clad; young men swaggering in their varied coats and interpretations. As Tina Naru, founder of the event said, they “came in wearing hoodies” – what a transformation was made.

The show comprised a long list of designers: Damien Loizou, Indii by Nancy Pattison, Freshies by Jaeden Williams, Toltu Tei Ora by George, Aotearoa by Jeanne Clarkin, Albertini by Adrianna Dent, Sivinikan, Lisa Waup and Ingrid Verner, Lyn-al Young, Hand Sewn by David Ross, Kahuwai by Amber Bridgman. Each took their fashion-version of a victory lap, met with well-deserved rounds of applause, smiles and cheers.

But this grouping doesn’t do them justice. While elements of culture, through pattern, design or fabric, shone through, each designer created pieces so individual and unique to their own beliefs they had to share. Jaeden Smith’s Freshies plays into street culture; rife with monochromatic hoodies, caps and shirts. On the other end of the spectrum, Hand Sewn by David Ross upcycles fabrics to create regimented suit pieces and avant-garde evening gowns.

All bases were covered, from swimwear to eveningwear, Chanel-esque tweeds and neon colours and even floating cover-ups. Bringing a strong sense of culture into all these varied areas is not something to easily dismiss: it is something to build up, to celebrate and revere. These designers offer a new vision, bringing heritage into fashion. While we so often recognise Le Smoking suit as iconically French and a Burberry scarf so British, these Indigenous cultures are underplayed and under-represented. Here’s to the ongoing celebration and building of a support network. The igniting of dreams; the strong sense of emotion; the essence of culture brought into everyday life through fashion.

Images: Lucas Dawson