WA’s Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency has teamed up with Australian fashion brand Gorman to co-design a collection that will launch this August.
Despite working with over 80 local and international artists and creatives over the past decade, this is Gorman’s first time collaborating with Indigenous artists.
Mangkaja artists are known for their dynamic use of colour, fitting effortlessly with Gorman’s bright and lively aesthetic.
Five Mangkaja artists’ works are featured in the Mangkaja x Gorman collection, including Ngarralja Tommy May, Sonia Kurarra, Daisy Japulija, Nada Tigila Rawlins and Lisa Uhl.
Ngarralja Tommy May is founder and senior adviser of Mangkaja Arts, with three works in the new collection that tell stories from his country in the Great Sandy Desert.
“We talked about this, we worked on this for a long time before anything happened. We did this the right way … nothing was stolen,” Mr May said.
“This was my idea and I want it to run for a long time, I want it to have an impact. All of the artists, and the board, we all know the right way to do things and we are happy.”
Gorman also worked with Copyright Agency to negotiate the licensing rights for adapting Mangkaja artists’ work.
Mangkaja Art Centre’s Manager Belinda Cook said the Centre wants to partner with leaders in new fields to guarantee Indigenous artists are truly connected in a viable sector.
“Mangkaja wanted to explore the fashion world with a partner that has a strong reputation for celebrating artists, and we identified Gorman as that partner,” Ms Cook said.
“As Gorman was yet to do a collaboration with an Indigenous art centre or Indigenous Australian artists, we thought perhaps it was time – and it turns out it was.”
Gorman founder and CEO Lisa Gorman said she was thrilled when Mangkaja approached the brand with the idea of an Indigenous collection.
“The Mangkaja artists were interested in what we could do with them, on their terms, at a time that was right for them … I knew that Belinda at Mangkaja held the interests of her artists at the forefront and that she would work to facilitate their goals within this project.” Ms Gorman said.
“Having an authority on Indigenous art, and a link between myself and the artists to negotiate the cultural elements of such a project, has made the collaboration possible.”
Ms Gorman also said she was pleased with having a copyright licence agreement to ensure everything was above board, so everyone had the confidence to continue with the collaboration.
Copyright Agency CEO Adam Suckling said the Agency was proud to have been entrusted with the licensing negotiations.
“This licence is an example of best practice as we worked with both Mangkaja and Gorman to respectfully negotiate fair and reasonable licensing fees,” Mr Suckling said.
“And crucially, we ensured the artists had approval throughout the whole process, from concept to in store delivery, and the approach to promotion via online platforms and social media.”
Ms Cook said at every stage the Mangkaja artists were excited about this opportunity.
“The dresses, shapes and designs really celebrate the women of our community’s flair for colour, while respecting their values and reflecting on historical shapes and fashions in a contemporary way,” Ms Cook said.
“This project is about promotion and sharing our artists’ stories. The five artists in this collaboration have all been leaders in innovative arts practice, and art is their vehicle to express themselves and their legacy.”