REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Indigenous fashionistas cut a dash

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend.

Mount Isa's Cungelella Art showcase Deadly Denim's jackets. Photo: Andrea Mitchell.

Mount Isa's Cungelella Art showcase Deadly Denim's jackets. Photo: Andrea Mitchell.

Australian fashion doesn't quite have the same cachet as New York, Paris or Milan but there is one branch of the local industry that is conquering the international scene.

In the 1980s and 90s it was Indigenous painting that captured the attention of the cultural world, now it is the fashion brands turning heads at catwalks across the globe.

One such brand is Deadly Denim the brainchild of WA designer Rebecca Barlow producing an exclusive range of recycled denim jackets, showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander artists.

Late last year Deadly Denim collaborated with Mount Isa artist Glenda McCulloch to feature her work on their products.

Ms Barlow said she saw Glenda's work and knew it would fit perfectly on her clothes.

"Glenda is actually the first artist I have used, previously we have gone with textile fabric and Injalak Arts (Gunbalanya) designs," Ms Barlow said.

The collaboration paid off with Australian actress Clare Bowen, best known for her role in Nashville, posting photos to her social media accounts with her wearing Glenda's artwork.

Now Deadly Denim has hit New York fashion week with Ms Barlow's work showcased in the Big Apple in an exhibit called 'Our Country' featuring artwork by Ms McCulloch's Cungelella Art and others.

The success has led Cungelella Art to diversity with a new collaboration with vegan shoemaker Twoobs.

The collection features three lycra sandals made from vegan and recycled materials, fusing Glenda's beautiful Indigenous art with two Twoobs' silhouettes.

Cungelella Art's vegan shoe design for Twoobs.

Cungelella Art's vegan shoe design for Twoobs.

"Twoobs are doing their part, looking after country which is very important to indigenous Australians, especially for us - all our paintings are our interpretations of Kalkadoon country," Ms McCulloch said.

And if you think Kalkadoon country art is ringing a bell at the moment, that might be because another talented Kalkadoon artist Chern'ee Sutton designed the shirts for the Indigenous All Stars mens and womens team in last weekend's NRL showcase.

Ms Sutton said the painting on the jerseys represented over 65,000 years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Culture and history

Meanwhile 700km south of Mount Isa in the desert country of Birdsville there is the inspiring work of two aboriginal artists from Birdsville, Aulpunda 'Jean' Barr-Crombie and Anpanuwa 'Joyce' Crombie collectively known as Two Sisters Talking.

Jean and Joyce have partnered up with Brisbane fashion designer Laura Gangemi and fashion producer Laura Churchill, to launch a new fashion label, painting a deep love of the country from river to desert.

The fashion label is called Red Ridge and its first collection Diamantina is named after the region where the artists grew up.

Jean said their parents shared the stories from the artwork.

"This is our way of teaching the younger generation. They learn from us. Our language is our art," Jean said.

"To have these stories on different materials, and even a catwalk, means so much to us. We are telling our stories through our artwork and these dresses - that is a first for us. If we don't pass our culture on to our young ones, we will lose it."

In case you are interested in filtering all the latest down to just one late afternoon read, why not sign up for The Informer newsletter?

More stuff happening around Australia ...