AUSTRALIA’S FASHION INDUSTRY is a happening space right now. Blink and you’ll miss the emergence of a new creator pumping out must-have apparel, or the shuttering of a short-lived trend. Creative talent is everywhere you look, from the experimental and statement-making to the idiosyncratic and inspired. In the middle of all this magic, there exists a group of First Nations-owned brands and First Nations designers using fashion to showcase Indigenous heritage and spark important contemporary discussions.
Of course, First Nations brands come in all shapes and sizes, and all corners of Australia. From well-known trendsetters to modest operations, each outfit is playing a role in bringing attention to Australia’s rich Indigenous culture. While some are creating wearable art that’s effectively high fashion, others are designing catchy political slogans and cool streetwear-inspired graphics. But the emphasis isn’t just on looks. Many of these brands give back to their communities with initiatives that support health and education programs, ensuring that profits from sales go where they’re needed most.
Read on for our list of eight First Nations-owned fashion and streetwear brands to know, support and (of course) flex in.
Clothing The Gaps
Indigenous-owned Clothing The Gaps is one of the biggest names in Australian First Nations fashion. You’ve likely seen some of their designs before; among social justice activists and allies attending rallies, Clothing The Gaps’ tees and hoodies are often the look of choice. Which is exactly what Clothing The Gaps wants—their clothes are made to be seen. As their mission statement proudly proclaims: “We exist to Educate, Elevate, Advocate and Motivate. Producing merch with a message and encouraging people to wear their values on their tee.”
Helpfully, every Clothing The Gaps piece is tagged as either ‘ally friendly’ or ‘mob only’—to clear up any potential confusion over what is and isn’t acceptable for you to wear, so you can feel confident when styling your kit. What’s more, Clothing The Gaps gives 100 percent of its profits to supporting Aboriginal health and education programs.
Take Pride Movement
Pride governs everything the Take Pride Movement does. The brand is committed to crafting eminently wearable pieces of clothing that unmistakably represent First Nations culture. These pieces stand as a source of empowerment, unity and, of course, pride—for people of all ethnicities to wear. With the Take Pride Movement, the emphasis isn’t only on making a statement. It’s about preserving and nurturing a continuous connection with the world’s oldest surviving culture.
First Nations owned and operated AARLI is a fashion label with a conscience—and it take its dedication to ethically and sustainably made apparel seriously. Founded in 2014, AARLI makes refined, stylish streetwear from up-cycled denim and other fabrics, distilling a sense of pride in First Nations culture while maintaining its ethical responsibilities. TJ Cowlishaw, a Nyul Nyul and Bardi woman, is the mind behind AARLI’s collections. The brand’s name also comes from her ancestry, with Aarli meaning fish in the traditional Bardi language.
House of Darwin
Based in the top end, House of Darwin is a social enterprise that makes contemporary, modish and undeniably cool collections. As per their mission statement, “we exist to inspire, educate and cultivate change within the two worlds of Australia.” That message clearly permeates their designs, as House of Darwin uses creativity to tell stories, a notion that becomes evident upon examining their stock. In addition to their sartorial savvy, House of Darwin also partners with grassroots organisations, promoting positive change and reinvesting their profits in social programs for remote Indigenous communities.
Entirely Blak-owned and operated, Nungala Creative places its artistic emphasis on originality, luminosity and eye-catching designs. The brand serves to increase the visibility and strength of First Nations people through a variety of creative methods. Least of all, its unique collection of apparel, which—besides looking fittingly fresh—is guaranteed to start conversations and pull compliments all in one.
Founded by a proud descendant of the Yorta Yorta, Taungurung, Boonwurrung & Mutti Mutti nations, Tahnee Edwards, Gammin Threads is all about comfort without sacrificing style. With a range of casualwear featuring witty printed slogans, Gammin Threads originally started as a side hustle, something for Edwards to work on in her time outside of her job at an Aboriginal family violence prevention service, and it’s since become so much more. Gammin Threads’ website is also packed with uber-helpful guidance on what is and isn’t ally friendly.
J Indigenous Designs
100% Indigenous-owned, J Indigenous Designs is a small-scale family business that makes high-quality activewear. J Indigenous Designs’ range of ally-friendly modern apparel is designed to exude confidence and promote empowerment during workouts—precisely the qualities you need for an effective sweat session.
The name ‘Kirrikin’ is derived from an Aboriginal word. It’s nearest translation is something along the lines of Sunday best—and that’s exactly what the brand’s collections are. Blak-owned Kirrikin makes luxury menswear inspired by traditional First Nations art, paying homage to heritage with an eye on contemporaneity. The brand is also committed to supporting the Indigenous designers it works with. When you purchase a Kirrikin product, a portion of the profit goes directly to the artist responsible for the design.