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First Nations menswear brand Joseph & James coined the brand to watch after impressive Melbourne Fashion Festival debut

Phoebe Blogg -

Striving to elevate streetwear with an understated level of sophistication, ready-to-wear menswear label Joseph & James stole the attention of the audience at Thursday's PayPal’s Melbourne Fashion Festival’s Urban Oasis Runway.

Known as the trendy new menswear label to come out of Naarm (Melbourne), Joseph & James presentation at PayPal’s Melbourne Fashion Festival (MFF) proved that men’s fashion – particularly streetwear – is gravitating towards a more elevated iteration, as opposed to three or four years ago when streetwear solely consisted of junky ‘dad’ sneakers and vibrant hues.  

When speaking with designer and founder Juanita Page, the proud Gooreng Gooreng and South Sea Islander woman said it has been a busy start to 2024, with Joseph & James preparing for their participation at both PayPal’s Melbourne Fashion Festival and Australian Fashion Week in addition to curating and designing a new collection.

“Joseph & James is a ready-to-wear menswear label based in Naarm/Melbourne, with the ambition to elevate streetwear with an understated level of sophistication,” Page said.

“We have been busy the past few months preparing for our upcoming participation in MFF and AFW, as well as putting together a new collection which we are set to release later this year.”

Models wearing Joseph & James on the Urban Oasis runway at Melbourne Fashion Festival. (Image: Lucas Dawson) 

Whilst the menswear brand has had a wealth of success since it launched in 2021, it is the first time Joseph & James will have appeared on the MFF runway.

“It is the first time we’re participating in MFF, and we’re looking forward to seeing the other amazing creatives that are a part of the Urban Oasis Runway,” Page told Style Up ahead of their MFF debut.

"I’m also keen to see the deadly designs coming out of the Emerging Mob in Fashion Runway.

“We were approached to take part in the Urban Oasis Runway towards the end of 2023, and we hadn’t been a part of MFF before, so it was a rather exciting prospect.

"We will be presenting our current available collection alongside some new pieces from our upcoming collection, set to release later this year.”

(Image: Lucas Dawson) 

Although thrilled to be presenting alongside various successful menswear brands this week, Page said Joseph & James has a significant point of difference in that the brand heavily centres around the wearability and accessibility of streetwear, as opposed to just focusing on the aesthetics of how the garments look.

“What may differentiate us from other brands is our aesthetic - centring around the wearability and accessibility of streetwear while pairing with the detail and refined nature of tailored garments,” she said.

“Bringing together cues from both these disciplines is essentially the starting point for all my designs. However, I find what connects us as mob within the industry is that storytelling is at the heart of design for all of us.”  

(Image: Lucas Dawson) 

When raising the topic of how First Nations fashion is evolving in 2024, the menswear designer reinforced the notion that our values are a direct reflection of what we care about, so to see diversity as an industry-wide value, would be the type of drastic change the fashion industry needs.

“I believe our values direct what we care about, so to see diversity as an industry-wide value, it would only be natural that an environment of authentic representation would follow. So, my hope is that we are moving towards that direction,” Page told Style Up.

“It’s amazing to see the work from the team at Mob in Fashion are doing in this space, creating waves and normality around seeing more mob in this industry – both in front of and behind the camera.

"They’re leading the way when it comes to cultivating opportunities and a platform for mob in this space."

Models backstage wearing Joseph & James at PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival. (Image: Dan Castano) 

Since graduating with a Bachelor of Fashion Technology degree in 2017, Page knew she wanted to create a brand that was not only unique in its design, but its approach to sustainability, inclusivity and purpose.

This point of difference has seen Joseph & James – as well as Page – be celebrated and commended for their ongoing efforts, brand appeal and popularity.

Aside from the brand featuring at both Melbourne and Australian Fashion Week in 2023, Page was nominated for the Indigenous Designer of the at the 2023 Australian Fashion Laureate.

With the brand’s name representing two important people in Page’s life who underpin the ethos of the brand: resolute, steadfast, authentic, and trustworthy, the designer has always viewed Joseph & James as much more than just a fashion brand.

As all Joseph & James collections being made of ‘parts’ which are not replacements, but additions, collections typically include custom-developed fabrics, curated textures, unifying colour palettes, and original prints – all reflecting the brand’s commitment to detail, quality and craftsmanship.

(Image: Dan Castano) 

As the brand’s popularity and sales continue to rise, Page said it is an incredibly exciting time for herself and the brand as they move into more opportunities, both on and off the runway.

“We’re working towards releasing a new collection later this year, and excitingly we are participating at Australian Fashion Week thanks to the DAAF Indigenous Fashion Pathways Program supported by David Jones,” she said.

Made with longevity, practicality and ageless aesthetics in mind, Joseph & James has reinforced the idea that in order to buy less, we need to invest smarter.

Whilst it’s fun to look at fashion trends for inspiration, appreciate them for what... a fleeting moment in which the industry deems an item of style of clothing, cool or uncool. 

Page and her brands remind us that timeless, sustainable and well-crafted garments are what will carry us from season to season – or even year to year.

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