A look at Australia’s newest fashion awards show

The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) has been held in Australia for 14 years. But this year was the first time it featured the National Indigenous Fashion Awards. The winners of the awards were announced Wednesday on a Facebook Live stream. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire DAAF is being done remotely.

Julie Shaw, a Yuwaalaraay designer living in Sydney, was the winner of the most prestigious prize—the Fashion Design Award. It’s a big deal for Shaw, who now has an opportunity to intern at Country Road (a well-known fashion company in Australia) for 12 months. She has also been given a membership to the Australian Fashion Council.

Shaw spoke to ABC about how difficult it can be for young designers to get their foot in the door of Australia’s fashion industry, which traditionally does not include much if any indigenous designs. With that said, Australia is making strides when it comes to recognising and promoting indigenous rights. For example, the government’s NDIS plan management program for disabled individuals includes funding for aboriginal health workers.

“It can be hard getting a start because people want to see a developed portfolio or they want to see your experience, where you’ve worked before,” Shaw explained. “So more pathways into businesses and into design rooms of large fashion companies would help. There could be more internships within Australia. I feel like there are more opportunities internationally.”

Shaw was awarded the top prize for her Maara resort clothing line. Maara Collective, which was founded by Shaw herself, includes work from a variety of indigenous artists. Its first resort line, for instance, was created with help from the Bula’bula Arts Centre, located in the Ramingining area of the Northern Territory.

Elle Roseby is the managing director of Country Road, where Shaw will intern for a year. She told ABC she was suitably impressed by Shaw’s line, as well as some of the others that featured at the awards show.

“With the designs that I’ve seen and with the talent we’ve also seen, there’s no reason why there can’t be collaborations,” she said, adding:

“When we thought about the brand being an iconic Australian brand, we really felt that we wanted to support indigenous fashion and textiles. I would love to see that … it becomes a real part of how we do our business.”

The DAAF continues through 14 August. Check out their website for more info.