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Preserving Country through fashion, Yanggurdi's eco-conscious collection unveiled

Maria Marouchtchak -

After an unfortunate accident carrying solar bush dyed pots, founder and designer of Yanggurdi, Cassie Leatham found herself with a broken foot.

The injury prompted her to make time to finish the new Baagangah Biik collection for this year's PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival (PMFF).

Leatham meticulously crafted 36 outfits for the Thread Lightly x Deloitte Runway and RMIT Revive and Thrive Runway, which hightlighted Australia's premier sustainable fashion labels and emerging designers.

Despite the success Yanggurdi has achieved, it might surprise many to learn that Leatham, a proud Dja Dja and Taunguraung woman, is a cultural educator by day.

Her work involves closely collaborating with students of all ages on Country, sharing insights into the medicinal and traditional uses of native plants as she strives to conserve culture.

Incorporating her signature clay bead fire carriers within her designs which she utilises in her survival outdoor education and cultural camps, Leatham aims to raise awareness about the preservation of Country through the avenue of slow fashion.

Leatham intricately weaves nature into the structure of her designs, respectfully gathering ochre and natural resources from Country to narrate a story of climate change and its impacts.

Yanggurdi's Mungan Biik collection. (Image: Lucas Dawson)

Catching up with Leatham in Naarm for her big PMFF reveal, the visionary behind the brand discussed the significance of sustainable fashion, raising environmental awareness and its alignment to Australian First Nation culture.

@nit_styleup Style Up caught yanggurdi's First Nations designer and founder Cassie Leatham after her Melbourne Fashion Festival show, as she discussed the importance of sustainable fashion and caring for Country. 🌿 #indigenousaustralia #indigenousfashion #mff24 #melbournefashionfestival #paypalfashionfestival #indigenousculture #indigenousexcellence ♬ Sunday Vibes - Masego & MEDASIN

Leatham told Style Up she hopes her brand can "show people how important it is to keep Country healthy, because without Country, we do not survive".

Motivated to reinvigorate Yanggurdi, Leatham declared this collection is unlike anything seen before.

Closing the show, Yanggurdi's final look captivated audiences. (Image: Lucas Dawson)

After the adrenaline rush of last week's show, Leatham, a dedicated Carlton supporter, scooted over to a special guest standing tall in a pool of the nation's most fashionable.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Yanggurdi ðŸ'£ (@yanggurdi)

Face to face with former Collingwood star Nathan Buckley, the duo momentarily shelved their sports allegiances.

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A post shared by Yanggurdi ðŸ'£ (@yanggurdi)

Buckley, captivated by the sheer talent within Leatham's collection, couldn't help but acknowledge the unique flair on display.

Hoping to bring the voice of the environment to the world, intertwining nature into the structure of the design has been a two year process, using clay pots to solar dye while sourcing and upcycling scrap fabrics from other designers to carefully craft her most recent collection.

"Encouraging, supporting and uniting," is an ethos driving Leatham as she infuses culture into her creation.

She urges aspiring fashion designers to embrace their individuality, leverage their creative ideas, and infuse their work with personal stories.

"Be yourself, use your own creative ideas, make it your personal story and journey," she told Style Up.

"Don't just do it for the sake of making something."

Melbourne Fashion Festival CEO, Caroline "Ralph" Ralphsmith dressed in Yanggurdi during Thursday's celebrations. (Image: Lucas Dawson)

When questioned about her drive, Leatham expressed her aim is to tell the story of Australia's First People through wearable fashion, a narrative that has not only survived but thrived.

Having presented in Indonesia last year for Jakarta's Fashion Festival, PMFF marks the second out of four major shows for the sustainable First Nation brand.

Leatham, hinting at a major announcement on the horizon, alludes to upcoming runway shows and collaborations.

She told Style Up there are some exciting times ahead for Yanggurdi.

"It is a slow fashion and sustainable label, so I'm really taking my time. I'm enjoying the journey, the process, making, creating, the storytelling because that's what First Nation fashion should be about," she said.

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