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Review: Indigenous Fashion Week

Stephanie Bloxsome reflects on the first ever Indigenous Fashion Week.

Every year when Fashion Week roles around, my experience in generally just an noticeably increased volume of fashion enthusiasts near carriage works with their skim decaf mocha Frappuccinos. This year, however, I attended my first fashion show in support of the Indigenous fashion community, which is well on its way to success.

Australian Indigenous Fashion week (AIFW) coincides with the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, held annually around the world. These global shows define the season’s biggest looks in fashion. However, AIFW displays and celebrates Indigenous designers and models in support of emerging designers and models, lending them exposure to publicity and opportunities to flourish within
the industry.

Samantha Harris, a stunning, highly regarded Indigenous model, headed a group of hand picked Indigenous models from across Australia. One of the most impressive pieces of the night was a Torres Strait inspired look, heralding one of the most iconic symbols of our people. Harris showcased this creation, leaving everyone who flanked the runway inspired and amazed.

Yes, Derek Zoolander, Aboriginal people do model, and we rock another kind of look: Black Steel.

The models were skinny. Did they represent the range of body types of Indigenous Australians? No. Does the fashion industry at large manage to prioritise this? No. I would personally love to see AIFW used as an opportunity to really shake the industry with both a variety of Indigenous culture and a variety of Indigenous bodies, because we have been given a moment in the spotlight to change the perceptions of the Australian public.

Now, turning to the fashion (as I attempt to channel my inner Anna Wintour). The pieces were a mix of contemporary works with an Indigenous twist, with urban wear weaving Indigenous patterns into the mix. Patterns were the flavour of the day and combining several at once seemed to be the style of the hour.

Though it could be seen that AIFW incorporated the use of patterns and fabrics with a deeper, more important meaning than your usual mainstream looks. They drew the audience into the designer’s background, culture, and even their area of Australia. This brings me to the important point of cultural protocol being followed within the fashion industry. In the past, and indeed, today, the industry has exploited various cultural traditions from around the globe. It’s unacceptable. Period. If a symbol or style holds cultural significance, a lack of community consultation or representation in creative processes indicates that everyone needs to step away from the sewing machine and rethink the concept. AIFW is set to begin a tradition of embracing and celebrating Indigenous culture in a positive way, allowing otherwise unheard of talent to receive the exposure that better resourced
and better known Australian talent has always been able to enjoy. After the incredible success of the inaugural Australian Indigenous Fashion Week, you’re definitely going to want to get in early when tickets are released for 2015!