Local designers attend New York Fashion Week

When Nat Dann launched her brand, Ihraa, last year, her goal was to showcase her designs at New York Fashion Week.

In exactly two months, the Bardi, Nyul Nyul and Nyikina woman’s dream will come true when her swimwear appears on the roof of New York’s Varick Street catwalk.

She’s not the only Western Australian designer, as Bobbi Lockyer, a Pilbara creator and Ngarluma, Kariyarra, Nyul Nyul and Yawuru woman, has also chosen to showcase her clothes.

For Ms. Dann, the opportunity to showcase her Pilbara and Kimberley-inspired designs on the international stage is synonymous with the increasing popularity of Indigenous fashion abroad.

European effect

Wonnarua woman Amanda Healy’s label has gained widespread traction in Europe.

Their business model is based on buying Aboriginal artworks and converting them into printed fabrics.

Amanda Healy has worked with around 16 Indigenous artists since founding her company in 2015.(ABC Kimberley: Abby Richards)

“It’s important that our people are seen and heard,” she says.

Over the years, Ms. Healy has worked with more than 16 artists – the money she makes goes back into the community.

Demand since BLM

Perth-based Indigenous designer Teagen (TJ) Cowlishaw has family ties to the Nyikina, Bardi and Nyul Nyul people. Her label AARLI, a Bardi word meaning fish, was in demand across Australia.

Portrait shot of TJ Cowlishaw
TJ Cowlishaw says Indigenous fashion has boomed in the last five years.(ABC Kimberley: Abby Richards)

Ms Cowlishaw says demand for Indigenous designs has increased since the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Australian Fashion Council was unable to provide statistics on sales of Indigenous design, but local designers say the anecdotal evidence speaks for itself.

“It’s really boomed, especially in the last five years,” says Ms Cowlishaw.

“You see not only the weekly collaborations, but also the yearning not just from the industry but also from consumers for First Nations content.”

woman holding designs with child
Nat Dann uses indigenous art to tell stories about her culture.(ABC News: Claire Moodie)

confidence booster

For Nat Dann, New York Fashion Week is a huge boost in her confidence as a relatively new designer.

“I have moments of doubt… whether what I’m doing and what I’m putting out there is good, but seeing it being noticed is just a validation that my work is good,” she says.

The two Western Australian designers will showcase their Indigenous art designs on the Flying Solo “Ones to Watch” runway to an audience of 16 million both online and offline.

Model on a cat walk
Indigenous designers see greater demand for their work abroad.(Supplied: Nat Dann/Lucas Dawson Photography)

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