STORY by KIERAN FINNANE, PHOTOS by ERWIN CHLANDA
There are two strands to the Yapa Styles event: one showcases excellence in Indigenous design, especially in fabrics and accessories; the other fosters self-confidence and “the beauty within” – as Hannah Trindorfer puts it – in local Aboriginal people, boys and girls, women and men.
Trindorfer is the driving force behind the event, the second of its kind and an annual fixture from herein, she promises. She is a designer herself, the talent behind one of the knockout presentations last night at the Doubletree Hilton. When have stilettos and platform shoes (top) looked so good? She masters fine detail, having years of nail art practice behind her, and knows how to match her designs to form. This is evident not only in her shoe collection but in the range of tights, ties and clothing to which she applies her designs. The motifs are unmistakeably Aboriginal – she is of Warlpiri descent – yet she works them with an element of fantasy.
But for Trindorfer Yapa Styles is equally about nurturing young people, keeping them off the streets, showing them that there are exciting things to do that don’t involve substance abuse – such as “styling up”. Not everyone is ready to get up on the catwalk, but there are lots of ways to be involved behind the scenes and in creative roles that support an event such as this. The live music was a good example: singer Johannah Campbell, a Wiradjuri woman from Sydney, and local duo Apakatjah – excellent guitarists and vocalists, both – delivered high energy performances that lent a lot to the night.
Shining in the design stakes, alongside Trindorfer, was a young woman who introduced herself only as Julie. She called her collection of fascinators Outrageous Jewel$. She’s still at uni and was thrilled to have her designs on parade (example at left), explaining that they worked with “the relationship between curved, flat and straight”. They did that with flair.
Batchelor Institute students in Visual Arts Certificate IV again demonstrated their mature skills in fabric design, and in more than one instance (example below right) showed how the fabric can be used to great advantage in well-constructed clothing.
Adi Dunlop’s Deeply Felt collection (examples above right), with garments for children as well as adults, was a sumptuous feast for the eyes, in form, colour, texture and sheer imagination. Dunlop, founder of the Beanie Festival, is not Indigenous, but, as veteran designer Lenore Dembski explained, “she has helped so many Indigenous people over the decades” that Yapa Styles embraces her work with open arms.
Dembski showed many items from her own extensive Paperbark Woman collection. She uses commercially available Indigenous designed fabric to create very wearable garments, some casual, some more dressy. She urged the audience to think about using these fabrics themselves, a good way to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers “who do this in their loungerooms”.
Albertini (the label of Darwin-based Adriana Dent) also uses Indigenous designed fabric, but art pieces, hand-printed on luscious materials which are then made into one-off coutured garments, wearable art in other words. These were the most glamorous of the night’s offerings.
The youngest designer to show a collection was Trindorfer’s daughter, Jayhannah, who also charmingly shared MC duties. She works with kangaroo fur, and showed fur capes and a bag, matched with the tights designed by her “dear mum”.
As for the models – 38 of them, trained by Trindorfer over the last 15 weeks – they were a delight to watch in their individual beauty, poise, sense of humour, and willingness to have a go. Some of the children were ready to jump out of their skins with the joy of it all.
This is an event that deserves patronage: from audiences, from sponsors and collaborators. It could do with tighter production in terms of timing, lighting and the creation of ambience, and for this it probably needs extra experienced person-power in the lead-up and on the night. But the seeds are there for a shining, thoroughly entertaining occasion, revealing the depth of Indigenous design talent and the character and beauty of local Aboriginal people.
Photographs below, from top, left to right, designs from collections by Albertini • Batchelor Institute students • Jayhannah Trindorfer • Dave Bellman (necklace) • Julie of Outrageous Jewel$ • Paperbark Woman (three examples) • Aunty Lenore, Dembski’s children’s wear.