• Joseph & James. Photographed by Clint Peloso
    Joseph & James. Photographed by Clint Peloso
  • Gali Swimwear. Photographed by Anthony Kalajzich
    Gali Swimwear. Photographed by Anthony Kalajzich

First Nations fashion labels Gali Swimwear and Joseph & James (pictured) will unveil the first menswear collections on the David Jones Indigenous Fashion Projects (IFP) runway during Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW).

The two labels will join five other Indigenous fashion brands on the IFP runway, which highlights Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers participating in the IFP Pathways Program.

The program was established in 2021 by the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation’s (DAAF) Indigenous Fashion Projects in partnership with David Jones and offers support and scalable opportunities for Indigenous fashion businesses.

Kamilaroi man and Gali Swimwear founder, David Leslie, said his vision for Gali is to fuse First Nations culture with sustainable swimwear to generate conversations and connections.

“I'm very excited to share this vision through my latest collection on the runway, which has been developed in collaboration with the Warlukurlangu Artists of Yuendumu from the Northern Territory, for people of all backgrounds, gender identities and ethnicities,” Leslie said.

“My collection is not only inspired by my culture but also the collective talent of First Nations designers, including past IFP runway participants, who are among the first to rise to heights in the fashion industry which wasn’t possible for many Indigenous Australians until recent years.

“Everyone deserves to see themselves represented and celebrated in the fashion industry, and everyone is invited to experience my new collection.”

Joseph & James founder and Gooreng Gooreng and South Sea Islander woman, Juanita Page, said she hoped this menswear milestone will inspire other First Nations designers to do the same.

“First Nations mob are known for their storytelling, and I just so happen to outwork this through fashion,” Page said. “It’s in the colour palette, the detail-centric designs, and how the fabric choices connect with the silhouette of the garments.

“Everything is created to come together and create a uniform story unique to my handwriting.”

The other five First Nations designers taking part in the IFP runway include Gammin Threads founder and Yorta Yorta and Taungurung woman, Tahnee Edwards; Ihraa Swim founder and Bardi, Nyul Nyul and Nyikina woman, Nat Dann; Kamara Australia founder and Gugu Badhun and Kutjala woman, Naomi Collings; Lazy Girl Lingerie founder and Waayni woman, Cassandra Pons; and Miimi & Jiinda founders and Gumbaynggirr, Dunghutti and Bundjalung women Melissa Greenwoord and Lauren Jarrett.

Meanwhile, DAAF Foundation community ambassador and singer Jessica Mauboy will return to the IFP runway for a special performance.

IFP manager Michelle Maynard said the annual event has helped establish a space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers in the fashion mainstream since 2021.

“The David Jones Indigenous Fashion Projects runway was created to ensure that the immense talent, innovations, and works rooted in thousands of generations of culture that First Nations designers bring to the Australian and international fashion industry, is represented and celebrated,” Maynard said.

“Acknowledging that there is still a long way to go in terms of representation, our team is proud of the impact this event has had on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples working in the textile and fashion industry.

Maynard said many IFP Pathway Program alumni have already gone on to have their works featured in global runways and in media, including Ngali by Denni Francisco and MAARA Colective by Julia Shaw.

“We are counting down the weeks until we gather with industry and audiences on Gadigal Land to see the stunning collections from seven new IFP Pathways Program designers on the runway, and we’re very excited that this year includes our very first menswear collections.”

David Jones' GM of womenswear, footwear and accessories, Bridget Veals, said the addition of two First Nations menswear labels marks a significant milestone for the program.

"The Pathways Program supports First Nations designers through business development and cultural exchange,” Veals said. “We are honoured to bring the industry together on Gadigal Country of the Eora Nation, to pay homage to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across Australia, and to celebrate their rich cultural heritage and diverse design perspectives.

“The debut of two First Nations menswear brands, Gali Swimwear and Joseph & James on the IFP Runway demonstrates the success of the program and brings us one step closer to building a more inclusive and representative fashion industry.”

AAFW is an IMG event supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW.

AAFW will take place from May 15-19, 2023.

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