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Five First Nations fashion brands to watch this year

Phoebe Blogg -

From small family-owned brands to nationally recognised designers, in 2024 Indigenous fashion is carving out a name for itself and as the talent pool increases so too does the competition.

Whilst there are several First Nations fashion brands currently exceeding in the creative industry, there are a handful of newcomers and industry favourites we can't help but keep our eye on this year.

From swimwear to sundresses and everything in between, here are the five First Nations Fashion brands Style Up are following in 2024.

Liandra on the Next Gen Runway at Australian Fashion Week. (Image: Instagram @official_liandra)

MAARA Collective

Founded by Yuwaalaraay creative director Julie Shaw, MAARA Collective launched in 2019 with a mission to showcase and celebrate Indigenous art and fashion, in a contemporary yet modern matter.

The brand name 'MAARA Collective', acknowledges and honours the 'many hands' involved in the creative and collaborative processes, where the word 'maara' refers to 'hands' in the Yuwaalaraay and Gamilaraay language groups.

Known withing the fashion industry as an Australian resort and ready-to-wear line embracing a collaborative approach to design, MAARA works closely with Indigenous artists and creatives, drawing inspiration from Country.

Since launching, MAARA Collective has appeared on the runways of both Australian Fashion Week , Melbourne Fashion Week and more. The brand has also gone on to win both the 'Fashion Design' and 'Community Collaboration awards at the inaugural National Indigenous Fashion Awards.

Designer and founder Julie Shaw was awarded the Australian Fashion Laureate for Indigenous Designer of the Year in 2021 and further named Designer of the Year at Marie Claire's 2022 Women of the Year Awards.

Model Em Stenberg wearing MAARA Collective in a recent campaign. (Image: Instagram @maara.collective @studioelford)

Amber Days

Made for mindful, adventurous, free-spirited little ones, Amber Days is an Aboriginal-owned ethical children's wear label, inspired by the Australian bush, desert and sea.

Created by mother nature protector, artist, designer and campaigner Corina Muir, Amber Days was born out of Muir's frustration when striving to find clothing that did not utilise harmful ingredients and chemicals.

Striving to create Amber Days with as minimal impact to the environment but also be a positive change to the fashion industry, the children's wear brand aims to use GOTS-certified organic fabrics - or otherwise strive to use the highest quality natural fabrics on the market.

Each Amber Days collection also features a collaboration with a different Aboriginal artist. Utilising the skills of many First Nations artists sees collections vary in design, colourway and symbolism.

Having recently collaborated with First Nations artist Michelle Jackson at Melbourne Fashion Week in 2023, Muir is hoping to launch the laid-back fashion brand onto many more runways this year.

First Nations model Sené Maluwapi on the runway wearing Amber Days X La Terre Press. (Image: Naomi Rahim)

Liandra

Known for its popularity among many Australian women, Liandra is a luxury lifestyle brand known for classic reversible swim styles, timeless designs and signature prints. As a Yolngu woman from East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory Australia, founder and creative director Liandra Gaykamangu is heavily inspired by her own Aboriginal upbringing and culture.

With each Lianda collection representing a unique story, individual prints also showcase different collections themes and contemporary representations of culture and identity.

Although most Australian brands are significantly conscious of sustainably and being as environmentally friendly as possible, Liandra has taken it one step further by opting to create their luxurious swimwear fabrics from regenerated plastics and recycled elastane as well as shipping their swimwear in home- de-composable, plant-based packaging.

Since having a significant rise in popularity amongst Australian consumers, Liandra has incurred several successes including partnering with both The ICONIC and David Jones, been featured in Vogue US, Elle Italy Harpers Bazaar and received investment support from Darwin Innovation Hub. Founder Liandra Gaykamangu also has several of her own personal achievements as a designer including having spoken at a two-day leadership camp with ELP Australia and Impact North to further support and bring together businesses from various communities across the Norther Territory looking to connect and learn from one another.

A model wearing Liandra swimmwear. (Image: Instagram @official_liandra)

Clair Helen

Named after founder Clair Helen Parker, Clair Helen is an Indigenous-owned and operated women's fashion brand curated for women who love to dress up no matter the occasion.

Born and raised on Larrakia Country, Helen shares that she is – and always has been - a proud Tiwi woman, who herself loves to dress up and enjoy the creativity found in fashion.

"I always loved art I guess where fashion came into the picture was a time on the islands when I was sitting on my sisters couch. I remember she had just purchased a new TV and cable TV was just brought out then and I would just sit and watch the fashion channel all day. To some it was boring to me it was exciting."

With all prints heavily influenced by Helen's identity and heritage, designs are carefully curated to reflect and embody several themes and ideas.

Since collaborating with Jordan Gogos and Akira Isogawa's collaboration for the 2023 Afterpay Australian Fashion Week show, Parker's brand has skyrocketed in popularity, so much so that the Iordanes Spyridon dress featured in this collaboration was then worn by actress Chloé Hayden in Marie Claire's August 2023 cover story. In terms of what's next for the talented designer, Parker stated just after Melbourne Fashion Week last year that she does have more than one project in the works.

"I am mainly focusing on my online store and expanding my team but I have few secret projects behind the scenes. I am not sure what the future holds. I am excited for what's to come," Parker told Style Up.

A model wearing Clair Helen on the Gambu Marra runway at Melbourne Fashion Week. (Image: Naomi Rahim)

Myrrdah

As proud descendants of the Kalkatungu tribe with ties to the Sandover river in the Northern Territory, Myrrdah is a brand that filters it's founder's Aboriginal culture, heritage and connection to country throughout its entire business.

Established in 2019 by sisters Dale Bruce, Cheryl Perez, Glenda McCulloch and Jaunita Doyle under Cungelella Art, Myrrdah is an expression of culture through modern Australian art.

Joining forces and working together has seen the four sisters successfully transform their artwork from canvas to fabric. With a large majority of the garments created heavily inspired by the sisters Aboriginal heritage and landscape of Mount Isa, garments featured in their product ranges are often sold and created highlighting earthy hues and contemporary colourways.

With all women having been in different phases of motherhood – pregnancy, breastfeeding, postpartum when creating the brand, the sisters have strived to feature a diverse range of bodies, whilst also creating garments that flatter and fit different body shapes and sizes.

Having already joined forces with the likes of The ICONIC and Vogue Australia as well as collaborating with popular Australian footwear brand TWOOBS, the 100% Aboriginal Australian-made product and family business, is showing no signs of slowing down, but rather speeding up.

Myrrdah featured in Vogue Australia. (Image: Instagram @_myrrdah_ @jessrubyjames )

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