By KIERAN FINNANE
Local Aboriginal models – women and men, girls and boys – took to the runway in a first for The Centre, the Yapa Style Fashion Festival, organised by designer Hannah Nungarrayi Trindorfer.
Yapa is the Warlpiri word for (Aboriginal) person or people. Hannah (below right), brought up “Warlpiri way”, has made a name with her Woo Woo Yiljirli designs for nail art, clothing and accessories, especially men’s ties. She is starting to be invited to national fashion shows, painting models’ nails, providing ties, and wanted to share the excitement locally, putting Aboriginal achievment into the limelight.
“I went into community,” she told the crowd at Saturday night’s event, held in the ballroom of the Doubletree Hilton.
“I wanted to use our community. I wanted to show our mob that we can achieve. I’m saddened by the affects of substance abuse … but here’s proof that we can achieve … All of these mob are from Alice Springs, when I met them they were like a little rose bud, but tonight they just blossomed before you.”
The models sported the wear of a number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous designers from around the country.
For Gomeroi designer Colleen Tighe Johnson (designs, above left), from Moree in New South Wales, it was her first trip into Arrernte country. She was close to tears as she expressed her hope to be invited back next year, to join again “such a beautiful group”.
South Sudanese designer Nyibany Tulba (designs, left and right), who now lives in Melbourne, met Hannah at a fashion show there last year – “It was love at first sight,” she said.
She sees her dazzling African-wear Revolution collection as being about culture and identity: “I am targeting women in the next generation, to help them grow, to let them know that it is OK to be who you are.”
A veteran of Australian Indigenous fashion, Lenore Dempski, a Kungarakan woman from Darwin, hosted the evening together with Hannah’s older daughter, Jayhannah. She showed some of her Paperbark Woman designs and encouraged people in the audience to take advantage of commercially available Indigenous-designed textiles to start making their own forays into fashion design.
Michelle Garrett, owner of the Afor boutique on Gregory Terrace in Alice, stocks only the work of independent designers, including Hannah’s. What goes around comes around and on Saturday she was invited to also show some of her own work.
Adi Dunlop, founder of the Beanie Festival, has expanded her textile talents to felting and showed off her Deeply Felt collection – striking headwear and cover-up garments with the desert winter in mind (Adi, centre, with models, below left).
The models were equally at ease baring flesh for Walya swimwear by Damien Loizou, a Warlpiri man whose people come from Wave Hill and Tennant Creek. Walya means ‘earth’ in Warlpiri.
While Loizou is well on his way into the world of fashion, Batchelor Institute students are starting out. Four of them – Michelle Morton, Kathy Inkamala, Caroline Bohning and Lavinia Richards – took part on Saturday night, launching their Forkleaf collection. They have already established their flair for textile design – which they showed off in an exhibition at Muk Muk Gallery last year. This year they have ventured further, designing and sewing garments themselves using their distinctive fabrics.
The designer line-up makes clear Hannah’s inclusive approach. She extended this on the night to desert musical talent – acoustic duo Apakatjah, Gordon Roberston from Yuendumu, and emerging singers Kira Voller and Rita Tomlins.
Below, from top: Left to right, designs by Dempski, Trindorfer, Loizou. • Left to right, designs by Afor, Dempski. • Loizou. • From left, singer Rita Tomlins in a Forkleaf dress; modeling a Trindorfer tie. • Kathy Inkamala in her own design. • Apakatjah. • Queen Nyibany Designs, featuring jewellery by Nyibany’s sister, Antong. • From left, Michelle Garrett, Nyibany Tulba,Colleen Tighe Johnson, Hannah Trindorfer, Lenore Dempski, and young Jayhannah Trindorfer wearing a kangaroo skin vest of her own design. • Forkleaf collection and designers, with lecturer Brigida Stewart on the far right. • Child models were a big hit on the night, with this little tot, in her half of a mother-daughter Afor outfit, reluctant to leave the stage.