A Wiradjuri designer whose philosophy of “Yindyamarra” – fashion that shows “respect, is courteous, considerate, kind to country” – has won designer of the year at the National Indigenous Fashion Awards.
For the second year in a row, Denni Francisco de Ngali won the fashion designer award for her elegant tailoring-focused womenswear that features digital prints and hand-embellished details adapted from the works of First Nations artists from across the country.
Francisco’s latest collection, unveiled in May at Australian Fashion Week, featured works by Northwest Kimberly artist Gija Lindsay Malay.
A Wiradjuri woman, Francisco describes her design philosophy as “Yindyamarra” or “fashion that shows respect, is courteous, considerate, kind to the country and honors cross-country collaborations with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives.” “.
Francisco has become a key figure in the Australian fashion industry, advising on projects such as the establishment of an Australian fashion trademark.
From a hand-knotted mókko (bark skirt) to eye-catching streetwear, the breadth of indigenous design excellence was celebrated at the National Indigenous Fashion Awards (Nifa) on a warm dry-season afternoon in Darwin on Wednesday.
Artist Esther Yarllarlla with nja-djéngka (dilly bags), mókko pubis and fabric design. Photo: Jessica Stalenberg/Bábbarra Women’s Center
Held in Darwin’s Larrakia Country as part of the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, the awards recognized outstanding contributions in six fields: from traditional ornamentation, textile design, fashion design and wearable art to community collaboration and commercial achievement.
Esther Yarllarlla won the prize for traditional adornment for a mókko (bark skirt) commissioned by the Center for Bábbarra Women. Yarllarlla is a kunibidji artist living in Maningrida, Arnhem Land, and her traditional woven and knotted works are made by hand from banyan trees growing next to her house, which she hand-harvests and processes to create yarn bags, mats, baskets and sculptures.
Models walk the runway in designs by Clothing the Gaps during the First Nations fashion and design show at Australian Fashion Week in May in Sydney. Photograph: Stefan Gosatti/Getty Images
Laura Thompson of social enterprise streetwear brand Clothing the Gaps was honored for her business achievements. Clothing the Gaps’ ethically made clothing and accessories celebrate indigenous identity and sovereignty, and the brand’s stance on cultural appropriation has been influential beyond the fashion industry.
Philomena Yeatman of the Yarrabah Arts & Cultural Precinct with a textile design. Cinematography: Bernard Singleton
Artist and weaver Philomena Yeatman won the textile design award. Yeatman uses a combination of modern materials and pandanus, cabbage palm and natural dyes to create her textile works, which are inspired by her family history Gunggandji and Kuku Yalanji. Based in Yarrabah, in Far North Queensland, Yeatman’s art is widely collected, including by institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of Queensland.
Lillardia Briggs-Houston wears her award-winning Walung stone print jumpsuit over hand-printed silk velvet devoré, with printed veil and seed earrings.
Fashion and textile designer Lillardia Briggs-Houston of Ngarru Miimi was nominated for her work in both textile design and wearable arts, winning the wearable arts category with a hand-painted, printed jumpsuit. The costume, which also included reed trimmings, a patterned veil and bottlebrush seed earrings, was created in Wiradjuri country in Narrungdera/Narrandera. Briggs-Houston’s ready-to-wear fashion has also graced the cover of Vogue Australia.
Linda Puna (second from left) and family members in the Mimili community, wearing the Puna collaboration with Unreal Fur. Cinematography: Meg Hansen
Mimili Maku Arts, Linda Puna and Unreal Fur were awarded for their community collaboration. Puna’s capsule collection for Unreal Fur, 18 months in the making, was endorsed by the Copyright Agency in an effort to uphold best practices throughout the design process. The result was a collection of pastel printed puffer coats, a reversible faux fur jacket and a black coat embroidered with Puna Ngayuku Ngura (My Home) artwork. The collection’s campaign photo shoot took place at Country in Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands and included behind-the-scenes opportunities for young women from the community.
The Nifas are part of a series of events this week celebrating Aboriginal art, design and culture as part of the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, which opens on Thursday.
On Friday, the winners of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, the nation’s richest art prize, with a prize of $190,000 in seven categories, will be announced at sunset on the grounds of the Museum and Gallery of Northern Territory art.
On Saturday, the National Indigenous Music Awards will induct Gurrumul into the hall of fame. A tribute to the late great Archie Roach is being planned.