First Nations fashion brands stole the spotlight in 2023, and in 2024 the industry is switching things up as the standing of Indigenous-founded swimwear brands hit an all-time high.
First Nations-founded and designed, Jalayimiya Swim, launched in 2022 by designer Brodie George, creates Country-conscious swimwear that strives to inspire visibility and admiration for the oldest living cultures in the world.
Having grown up in Fitzroy Crossing, 400km east of Broome in WA's top end, designer Brodie George values community and culture above anything else.
"I have been very fortunate to have grown up in Fitzroy Crossing immersed in culture and taught by Elders, and continue to stay well connected to where I come from so it is ingrained into me to carry the culture," she said.
"I spent my childhood surrounded by family, country and culture learning and using language and watching old people paint at Mangkaja Arts.
"When I was younger, I loved swimwear. When we moved down to Perth in my teens from Fitzroy Crossing we moved to a suburb close to the beach which had a real surf community so my love for swimwear grew and so did my bikini collection."
George strives to bring something different to the industry via Jalayimiya Swim's niche creativity, core brand values and environmental sustainability.
One important aspect of the brand George reinforces throughout all areas of the business is its attitude towards body positivity and self-love.
"Jalayimiya Swim is a celebration of culture, caring for country and body positivity. I'm building this brand to encourage women to appreciate and love themselves inside and out. I want to create a ripple effect for other women to look at themselves and appreciate their special qualities," she said.
"Models for my photoshoots are volunteers, ranging in ages and have diverse body shapes. I want all women to feel confident and know that they're part of this community of women who uplift and encourage self-love."
When it comes to which Jalayimiya Swim garments models wear, George is conscious of working with these women to place them in styles of swimwear in which they feel most comfortable and confident.
Whilst Jalayimiya Swim's current offering includes three collections - Yitilal, Parranga and Makurra - George's most recent collection, Makurra, is a celebration of the brand's next steps towards greater growth and modernisation.
"This summer Jalayimiya Swim has released three collections representing the Walmajarri seasonal calendar. The calendar combines Walmajarri seasonal names with the Walmajarri people's knowledge of both desert and river country," she said.
"The Makurra Collection represents cold weather time which is why it is my last collection of the three as we are nearing the end of summer. The colours chosen have a darker palette in comparison to the previous collections as the days are shorter and nights are colder during that particular season."
George said she is influenced by her culture and by contemporary mediums.
"Being interested in art from a young age the artwork of my mob has influenced the creations of my designs. I paint my perception of the unique country I grew up on using bright colours often seen in the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia," she said.
"Creating the artwork using Walmajarri language keeps me connected to my country and heritage. I've always been arty and creative and loved bright colours so the artwork side of things comes naturally. Aboriginal artwork is at the forefront of the designs in all my collections."
"I like to have my community of customers involved in the process of choosing colour ways for future collections by adding polls to my Instagram account and have the audience vote their favourite colour."
Further inspired by her past business ventures – which involved launching a natural deodorant brand –the designer has also developed Jalayimiya Swim to be as environmentally friendly and financially accessible as possible.
"I believe as Aboriginal people we should be practising caring for Country the same way our ancestors did despite living in the modern world. Currently the brand is slow fashion all made to order so there is no excess wasted stock that will go to landfill. I'm very conscious of keeping my pricing affordable as I would like everyone to be able to wear and feel beautiful in my designs without breaking the budget," George told Style Up.
"I envision my swimwear stocked in small exclusive boutiques rather than big chain stores as I feel it gives the brand that community feel and more connection on the ground. "
Since having the likes of Barkaa and Clementine Ford purchase and wear Jalayimiya Swim with no prompt or influencer marketing contracts in place, George is confident that she – like other local Fizroy designers including Letticia Shaw – has developed her brand into somewhat of a community-known household name.
"Both of these women (Barkaa and Clementine Ford ) organically chose to support my brand and I'm so grateful for their backing and advertising on their big platforms," she said.
"I find the Aboriginal fashion community really supportive of one another and have had great networking opportunities which have formed friendships with fellow female Aboriginal entrepreneurs Rebecca Rickard (Deadly Denim), Corina Muir (Amber Days), Liandra Gaykamangu (Liandra Swim) and Nat Dann (Ihraa Swim). There is definitely so much talent coming out of the Aboriginal community."
Although George was not selected for Country to Couture in 2024, she is hoping to participate in a series of Fashion Weeks both locally and overseas. In addition to this, the talented designer is also branching out and furthering her skill set by undergoing a professional training course.
"I did apply for Country to Couture for 2024 however I unfortunately was not chosen so this is something I'm aiming for 2025. Following on from Country to Couture I would like to participate in other Australian fashion shows/weeks or even have the opportunity to travel overseas and share my brand with the international market," she said.
"Currently I'm completing a course with an industry business coach who is working with big Australian brands in the e-commerce sector so I hope that this will give me more knowledge how to navigate the marketing side of things to gain more exposure."
Kicking off 2024 with a mission to increase brand awareness, further her own knowledge and educate more consumers on the First Nations community, designer Brodie George is making a name for both herself and her successful swimwear brand.
"I'm always working on growing the brand and looking for opportunities to grow and gain more brand awareness," she said.
"I want to be able to share our culture with non-Indigenous people to inspire more visibility and encourage everyone from all walks of life to show respect and admiration for the oldest continuing living culture in the world."