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Australian Defence Apparel announce collaboration with Indigenous Design Labs

Phoebe Blogg -

Set to champion and showcase Indigenous youth creativity and community engagement, Australian Defence Apparel will partake in an industry-first collaboration with Indigenous Design Labs this month.

Spilt into a two-phase training program, the innovative collaboration is striving to forge pathways for Indigenous youth in the field of uniform, design and production.

Phase one of the collaboration will see Indigenous Design Labs (IDL) creating modern and contemporary print artwork applicable to uniforms, bringing a fresh aesthetic to Australian Defence Apparel's (ADA's) warehousing and manufacturing operational crew.

On the other hand, phase two of the collaboration will launch an eight-week training program, integrated into a real-world uniform development project, where IDL youth will collaborate with ADA designers to develop a new clothing range from concept to prototype and manufacturing.

The launch will coincide with Closing the Gap Day on 21st March 2024, amplifying the initiative's significance and sparking conversation around social cohesion and economic empowerment.

Indigenous business owner of Indigenous studios and IDL founder, Leigh Harris said these youthful, eagerly enthusiastic creatives are a direct reflection of Australia's diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

"Indigenous Design Labs consist of a team of young creatives focusing on abstract and contemporary designs that reflect a diverse representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures," she said.

"We view every opportunity as a chance to contribute to and expand upon the ongoing narrative of Indigenous design."

Leigh Harris IDL Creative Director leading the group.(Image: supplied)

IDL Torres Strait Mentor, Sheree Jacobs, said it is collaborations such as these that further assist regional youth all whilst breaking down barriers and paving the way for a brighter future.

"We are passionate about ensuring equal opportunities for individuals in regional areas," Ms Jacobs said.

"Partnering with a significant organisation such as ADA, not only grants access to urban opportunities but also empowers us to showcase what is possible.

"This collaboration enables regional youth to access opportunities previously out of reach, breaking down barriers and paving the way for a brighter future."

ADA designer, Casey Demko, who is leading the partnership, said her own insights into growing up in a rural community and just how much she herself, sees this program succeeding well into the future.

"Growing up in rural Victoria, I was really excited about this partnership with IDL. I understand, first-hand, the difficulties faced by young Australians wishing to pursue creative career paths and the lack of industry partnerships available to remote communities, which can be really empowering for young people," Ms Demko said.

"This program will be a platform to connect indigenous and non-indigenous communities through clothing and art, representing ADA's commitment to driving meaningful."

Lalawa Donigi-Bedford IDL Creative. (Image: supplied)

Further emphasising the significance of this collaboration within the defence and manufacturing sectors CEO of ADA, Chris Dixon mentioned that choice to join forces represents both businesses's commitment to driving positive change and fostering cultural appreciation.

"This initiative not only provides valuable paid creative work and mentorship opportunities for young First Nations people but also injects funding into creating real-world opportunities for them to activate their creativity and upskill in the digital and creative design space," he said.

"This pioneering partnership not only represents a groundbreaking endeavour in crafting new apparel but also underscores ADA and IDL's commitment to driving positive change and fostering cultural appreciation within Australia's apparel manufacturing landscape, aligning closely with ADA's Reconciliation Action Plan.

"Through innovative design, community engagement, and social responsibility, ADA and IDL are poised to set new standards for inclusive practices."

To celebrate the collaboration, a joint launch event will take place which will see the Indigenous youth creatives and mentors flown down to Melbourne from Far North Queensland at the end of August 2024.

With sizing collation and fitting for ADA team members set to occur in mid-May 2024, with final orders set for delivery to ADA HQ by mid-August 2024, it's not long until these niche designs are being worn by Australian frontline workers.

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