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First Nations designers to headline Melbourne Fashion Festival

Phoebe Blogg -

Recognised as Australia's largest consumer fashion event, the PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival is back again in 2024.

Celebrating its 28th year in operation, this year's festival is set to spotlight Australia's top-performing Indigenous designers and creatives.

Featuring more than 100 unique events, the 15-day festival programme (24 February – 9 March 2024) will showcase Victoria's and Australia's diverse First Nations fashion community.

Melbourne Fashion Festival chief executive Caroline 'Ralph' Ralphsmith, said that the 2024 program is set to further cement the popular spectacle as Australia's only major true consumer event in fashion.

"This year we are further cementing PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival as Australia's only true consumer major event in Fashion – a true fashion destination – where fashion lovers, industry insiders and voyeurs all gather to celebrate and support the extraordinary rich tapestry that is the Melbourne and Victorian fashion industry," Ms Ralphsmith said.

My Spirit, My Country runway, Melbourne Fashion Festival 2023. (Image: supplied)

With several premium and independent runways featuring First Nations designers, attendees and consumers can expect to see Indigenous talent spread evenly across the week's programming.

On Sunday 3 March, the Global Indigenous Runway - Ancestral Bloodlines will kick things off showcasing several designers' unique styles that reflect their ancestry.

On Thursday 7 March the Tribe x Fujitsu First Nations Rising Designer Runway will celebrate emerging First Nations fashion talent, selected by Festival collaborator, Mob in Fashion, including Delvene Cockatoo-Collins, Gali, House of Darwin, Lillardia Briggs-Houston, Miimi and Jiinda, Soild Ochre, Take Pride Movement and more.

Later that evening, Urban Oasis Runway x Fujitsu will present renegade and First Nations streetwear designers that take cues from global conversations and translate them into distinctive fashion for the elevated everyday.

Designers to feature on this runway include Amber Days, Best Jumpers, Ginny's Girl Gang, Iljta Ntjarra, JAM the label, Joesph & James and Wah Wah.

My Spirit, My Country runway, Melbourne Fashion Festival 2023. (Image: supplied)

Aside from runway performances, several First Nations creatives will also feature in a variety of additional events including panel discussions and exhibitions.

On Tuesday 5 March, First Nations designer Paul McCann will partake in the 'Conversations Across Culture' panel with several other industry figures and representatives.

This panel conversation will reflect on the ethics, opportunities and questions involved when we draw on diverse cultures from the perspective of another.

Throughout the discussion, writer and Culture Club podcast co-host, Maggie Zhou, will probe how cultural collaboration has been practised historically, how collaborations work now, protocols for best practice and how to honour rather than appropriate culture.

From Friday 23 February – to Saturday 10 March the Layers of Black exhibition will celebrate the creative outcome of the Koorie Heritage Trust's second year of the Blak Design program, showcasing jewellery from eleven Victorian First Peoples artists.

The Blak Design program is the first of its kind nationally, marking a crucial step in recognising and reclaiming space for First People's design in the wider Australian design landscape.

Presented by the Koorie Heritage Trust in partnership with the National Gallery of Victoria and RMIT University with support from the Ian Potter Foundation, Blak Design aims to foster First Peoples cultural innovation within the Victorian design sector and provide a platform for nurturing sustainable, collaborative First Peoples design practices.

Participating First Nations artists featured in the exhibition are Thelma Austin (Gunditjmara), Mandi Barton (Yorta Yorta/Barapa Barapa/Wemba Wemba), Lorraine Brigdale (Yorta Yorta), Nikki Browne (Bidjara), Deanne Gilson (Wadawurrung), Tammy Gilson (Wadawurrung), Elijah Money (Wiradjuri), Yasmin Silveira (Palawa), Sammy Trist (Taungurung), Dominic White (Palawa) and Tracy Wise (Barkindji Ngiyampaa Maligundidj).

Behind the scenes at Melbourne Fashion Festival 2023. (Image: supplied)

With a handful of events and speakers still to be announced, this year's Melbourne Fashion Festival is bound to gain the attention of local and interstate audiences.

Victorian Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, Steve Dimopoulos paid tribute to the "calibre and diveristy" of the event's program.

"We're proud to support Australia's largest consumer fashion event and the calibre and diversity of next year's program is set to attract new audiences from across the country, supporting local jobs and boosting our vibrant hotel and hospitality sectors," Mr Dimopoulos said.

Striving to inspire consumers and further support retail as the lifeblood of the Australian fashion industry, this year's Melbourne Fashion Festival is expected to showcase First Nations fashion in a manner that celebrates it as the heart of Australian culture.

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