Culture Couture

Sarah_webThe Australian fashion scene continues to diversify, spawning new design talent every year and gradually making its mark offshore. A key part of that growth is the emergence of indigenous creative talent drawing on their rich culture to design clothing collections that resonate their history and homeland.

NSW Department of Trade and Investment has recognised this and funded a consultant to provide mentoring and support to Aboriginal Designers. This program was to aid them in building their business including presenting at Fashion Exposedthis month. The talented Group consists of three labels including Mindall & Bungall by Leanne Kennedy; Caressa by Caressa Sengstock; and Mimi Designs by Mia Brennan.

Renowned buyer, Fashion Exposed Seminar Speaker and former Project Runway Australia judge, Sarah Gale, was enlisted as the Group’s mentor guiding them through regular workshops and weekly mentoring sessions by drawing on her professional experience in the industry to ensure they have the best chance to make it in the industry . These sessions have equipped the trio with the knowledge and practical skills to enter the commercial world covering customer service, market knowledge and awareness, range development, marketing, costing and production.

mimiSarah says mentoring the Aboriginal designers has been a very rewarding role. “I really have a great respect for the Aboriginal culture so it has been really fabulous,” she says. “I love working with emerging designers, their enthusiasm is incredible, they are like open books. “It has a been a journey for them so far as they are all very different, very passionate and each have different handwriting so it was also about keeping their signature but at the same time bringing it into a commercial realm as well.”

The interactive workshops have also focused on branding and developing their designs from sketches into a working collection.
“It has been really interesting because they are so inspired by their culture, the stories and traditions, the natural aspects of which is so important to the Aboriginal culture,” she says.
“All designers are inspired by something, and when you think about it in one of his collections Jayson Brunsdon was inspired by his mother and we are often inspired by our family connections. Their work is rich with tradition and storytelling and nature, it is beautiful and the story telling comes through all of their work.”

caressaSarah says an important element of her work with the Group was helping them to translate these stories and the Aboriginal culture into a commercial arm and communicating that to an audience.
“I have felt very privileged to hear all their stories and traditions and to learn what is important to them, understanding that importance and then finding a way they can mix that into the commercial world because it’s about reaching people,” she says.
“I think people will feel the message behind it, such as the beautiful feather print on Mimi’s designs which is very special to her and the other designers Caressa, and Mindall & Bungall have used colours and textures that reflect a connection to their heritage and relate to the natural landscape.
“On some levels it is subtle, but it is finding a way to bring that through and say `this is our heritage’.”

A statement released by the department explains the program:
“Aboriginal Business Development Programs Economic independence is essential to increasing the confidence, wealth, socio-economic status and community empowerment of Indigenous people. The NSW Government is committed to developing business and employment opportunities for Indigenous people to increase their economic independence. The Government places strong emphasis on working with employers to generate job opportunities for Indigenous people in the private sector and supporting the growth of Indigenous small business. Trade and Investment NSW offers a range of services to meet the needs of Indigenous-run businesses to help plan for their successful growth and development.”

Head to the Fashion Exposed Blog for one-on-one interviews with Mindall & Bungall by Leanne Kennedy; Caressa by Caressa Sengstock; and Mimi Designs by Mia Brennan, including a first look at their inspiring campaign shoots.

To view their collections, register for Fashion Exposed this month from August 28-30 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, here and see them at:

Mindall & Bungall – stand 4232

Caressa – stand 4420

Mimi Designs – 2918

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