Indigenous Fashion Projects (IFP) and David Jones have announced the seven up-and-coming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers selected to participate in this year’s (2023) prestigious IFP Pathways Program.

IFP was established by the not-for-profit Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation (DAAFF) with the purpose of supporting Australian First Nations textile and fashion practice and enterprise and is widely known for its celebrated National Indigenous Fashion Awards (NIFA) and Country to Couture events.

IFP’s Pathways Program launched in 2020 to empower and facilitate the development of First Nations designers’ fashion labels through cross-cultural exchange with workshops, collaborations and mentorships between participants, industry experts and leading Australian designers behind renowned brands, including Aje, Bassike, Viktoria & Woods, Bianca Spender and more.

The program has played a long overdue role in paving the road for First Nations designers to be represented in the fashion industry at a national and international level, with opportunities to showcase their collections on the runway and industry events, including Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) in Sydney.

Indigenous Fashion Projects Manager, Michelle Maynard, said the Pathways Program is an incredibly exciting platform providing opportunities for First Nations designers to develop their label, build capacity, and shape their identity and position in the industry.

“The expression of First Nations culture and storytelling through the medium of fashion and textiles is rich and vibrant. Our program is expanding diversity in the industry,” she said.

“While the program provides important opportunities for First Nations designers, its impact on the industry is just as remarkable. There’s such great opportunity for the wider fashion industry to learn from Indigenous designers, our cultural ways of being and our relationship and responsibilities to Country. Our work is grounded in more than 60,000 years of heritage and our program provides a platform to engage in the sharing of it.

“Our industry partners learn as much as they share. It’s a collaboration in building cultural understanding and deepening relationships, understanding and experience.”

David Jones General Manager of Womenswear, Footwear and Accessories, Bridget Veals, reaffirmed the department store’s commitment to the program. “Promoting cultural appreciation and uplifting Indigenous designers on a global stage is at the heart of what motivates us at David Jones.

“Our continued support of the Indigenous Pathways Program demonstrates our commitment to First Nations designers and their diverse perspectives as we work towards a future where Indigenous design and culture is equally represented.”

The 2023 IFP Pathways Program Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designer participants include:

GALI Swimwear – by Kamilaroi man, David Leslie (lives on Gadigal and Bidjigal Country, Bondi, Warrang/Sydney, NSW)

Gammin Threads – by Yorta Yorta and Taungurung woman, Tahnee Edwards (lives on Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country in Naarm/Melbourne, VIC)

Ihraa Swim – by Bardi, Nyul Nyul and Nyikina woman, Nat Dann (lives on Whadjuk Nyoongar Country, Boorloo/Perth, WA)

JOSEPH & JAMES – by Gooreng Gooreng and South Sea Islander woman, Juanita Page (lives on Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country in Naarm/Melbourne, VIC)

KAMARA Australia – by Gugu Badhun and Kudjala woman, Naomi Collings (lives on Wulgurukaba and Bindal Country, Townsville, QLD)

Lazy Girl Lingerie – by Waayni woman, Cassandra Pons (lives on Mununjali Country, Scenic Rim, QLD)

Miimi & Jiinda – by Gumbaynggirr, Dunghutti and Bundjalung women, Melissa Greenwood and Lauren Jarrett (lives on Gumbaynggirr Jagun, Coffs Harbour, NSW)

2023 IFP Pathways Program participant, Gumbaynggirr, Dunghutti and Bundjalung woman and Miimi & Jiinda Founder Melissa Greenwood, said the program was a step towards enabling her brand to continue storytelling in a new way and with new audiences.

“As an Aboriginal woman, storytelling has always played an important role for me, and generations before, to share and keep our culture and history alive,” said Mrs Greenwood.

“After years storytelling through paint and canvas, I felt it was only natural to bring my stories to life in a new form by translating my artwork into fabrics for people to learn, enjoy and celebrate through fashion.

“We feel fortunate to be part of this year’s IFP Pathways Program for the opportunity to learn from industry heavyweights and to share the beauty of our ancient culture with them.

“We are also excited as a participant to be able to tap into a new network of deadly First Nation Designers and to follow along with the success of their fashion label.” Feeding the Pathways Program this year will be a new Track to Pathways program – a stepping stone to help budding creatives develop their businesses through a series of tailored workshops, industry mentorship and promotional opportunities.

Selected for the new program are Rebecca Rickard of Deadly Denim, Briana Enoch of Jarawee, Bobbi Lockyer of Gantharri and Grace Power of Message in a Bottle.

“We are contributing to building a fashion industry in Australia that embraces and nurtures diversity and celebrates the world’s oldest living cultures. We are embedding the grassroots of our Country and evolving the shape of the industry through our programs, and that’s really exciting,” said Ms Maynard.

Indigenous Fashion Projects (IFP) acknowledges that participants’ first showcase will be presented on Gadigal Land in Redfern, in the David Jones Indigenous Fashion Projects runway, presented by Afterpay, in Sydney, on May 17th, 8:00pm in Gallery 1 at Carriageworks.

For details and ticketing, refer to the AAFW website

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