Indigenous inspired clothing flying off the shelves


An Australian clothing manufacturer says it’s had a fantastic response to its NAIDOC inspired collection.

Lifewear Australia collaborated with four Indigenous artists to design a clothing range for women, men and children to mark the 2018 NAIDOC week theme “because of Her, we can”, celebrating the sacrifices Indigenous women have made for their family and nation. 

NAIDOC stands for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’, and traces back to the 1920s where the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community sought to raise awareness of the treatment of Indigenous Australians.  

Lifewear Australia marketing coordinator Sophia Sorensen said the limited edition collection was flying off the shelves when NAIDOC week celebrations began in early July.

Sorensen said the company has been working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists for four years, exploring connections between mainstream fashion and Indigenous art with clothing collections for broad audiences and industries. “We celebrate Indigenous expression through storytelling via fashion, and present it to the public in a way that starts a conversation. With every product that is purchased, you become part of a bigger purpose,” she said.

“Our customers appreciated the diverse selection of styles, colours and the great stories behind the original artworks. We started with pre-orders on several garments with a discounted price to provide an opportunity for those who wouldn’t be able to afford full priced items. Almost everything had been sold out from our Limited Edition NAIDOC 2018 collection by the start of NAIDOC week.”

The collection features a range of pieces such as leggings, polos, activewear, formalwear, and accessories in four intricate designs. 

“Typically the introduction of a new collection can take up to 5-6 months from start to finish. Firstly, we narrow down our available artists and confirm what we need: a licensing contract is proposed along with a description. Lifewear Australia is a member of the Indigenous Art Code (currently the only apparel company in Australia), therefore we must follow certain guidelines during the licensing process,” Sorensen said.

“Once the artists have completed their artworks, our design team digitises the works and works on the initial styles and samples. During the process, we appreciate feedback from the artists and work on the garments until everyone is happy with the end result. While the bulk production occurs, our marketing team creates photographs, creatives and prepares the online shop to introduce the new collections to the public.”

Source: Alisa Walsh via Lifewear Australia

The first design ‘Weaving Through Time’ is by Alisa Walsh, an Aboriginal Australian Visual Artist living in Brisbane. She belongs to the Lardil/Kullili/Yuggera Nations and says her artistic roots are inspired by the storytelling, ceremonies and teachings from her ancestors. 

Walsh says “Weaving Through Time” is a piece celebrating our people from the desert and near the ocean. It represents traditional weaving techniques unique to each region and depicts our mothers, aunties, grandmothers, daughters and nieces from our vast Indigenous communities.”

Source: Glen Mackie via Lifewear Australia

The second design was created by Torres Strait Islander artist Glen Mackie (Kei Kalak)As one of Yam Island’s few practising artists he retells the myths and legendary stories he inherited from older family members through his art, titled ‘Love Of Culture.’

“Love Of Culture pays homage to women and represents the livelihood and sacred labour of Torres Strait Islander women, often carried out in a group. Love of Culture features unique elements like hair combs, bridal pendants and frangipani flowers, which all have individual meanings, but as a whole helps to tell an important story about Torres Strait Islander women.”

Source: Amanda Conway-Jones via Lifewear Australia

The third design titled ‘Motherland’ was created by Ngarrindjeri woman Amanda Conway-Jones from South Australia and is inspired by the impact women past and present have on land rights. The artwork’s title ‘Motherland’ “represents the country” she said.

“For our people land has a spiritual and cultural connection and is so important to our identity and way of life. With this piece, I have used a combination of ocean colours and earth colours to represent my country, the small country town near the ocean.

“My family is one of the oldest Aboriginal families here on the south coast so this land I call home has been a part of my family for a very long time, and by creating this Land Lines piece I am acknowledging the important connection my family have with this land and the impact that Aboriginal women have made on my country.”

The final design is by Aboriginal artist Geoff Sellman (Goreng Goreng) titled ‘Her Opal Spirits’. As a practising artist, Sellman received traditional training from his Bunda-Bunda tribal community in Bundaberg, Queensland.

“The inspiration for this artwork acknowledges my late Aunty Vi from the Bunda tribe within the Goreng Goreng nation, from where I was born. She spent many years digging for opals in the earth and rocks in sites across Australia. As the rhythmic beating of the ground begins to move, the grains of ochre sand and granites everywhere including time come to a quiet halt. You just tap into your sense of listening and you can hear the land spirits create dreaming.”

Her Opal Spirits, 2018. Synthetic polymer on Belgian linen, 90cm x 120cm © Geoff Sellman/Copyright Agency. Source: via Lifewear Australia

Lifewear Australia’s website has more information on these unique pieces though most have already sold out.

(All quotes from the artists are supplied by Lifewear Australia.)



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