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From Mangkaja to the Masses

One of the most exciting collaborations in the Australian fashion world will sashay down the catwalk at the From Country to Couture show in Darwin.

MANGKAJA ARTS IN Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia, has teamed up with fashion heavy-weight Gorman for the label’s first collaboration with Aboriginal artists.

Founder of the iconic Australian label Lisa Gorman says she’s excited to see years of hard work finally hit the runway, with peace of mind that the artworks and artists have been treated with the utmost respect.

“(Mangkaja Arts Manager) Belinda approached me with the concept of an Indigenous collaboration two years ago, and that gave me a lot of comfort from the outset,” Lisa says.

“I was often asked why I hadn’t collaborated with Indigenous artists before. I was fairly nervous about the cultural sensitivities – I was quite scared of mucking it up. But what Belinda could offer me was an assurance that there was someone who could represent the artists and ensure the collaboration was a fair representation of their work, and get their approval along the way so it was a true collaboration, rather than just an outright licence agreement.” 

Mangkaja Arts Manager Belinda Cook says the artists sent many images to Lisa to show the diversity of the art created in the region for her to choose from. 

“We wanted to make sure our artists’ work was honoured,” Belinda says.

“We wanted to give a real sense of what the artists produce because there is such a vibrant mix. I think there’s a tendency for Indigenous artists to be pocketed into particular styles, but we’ve got such different styles within in our area. While all the artists involved in this collection are desert artists,we’ve got five different language groups and artists from everywhere, including river country."

The collaboration has had flow on effects for the community, with local models involved in the campaign and a spotlight on the remote art centre.

“Gorman is such a fantastic brand with a broad customer base, and there’s that younger audience we want to grow and educate about Indigenous arts and culture,” Belinda says.

The annual runway show, from Country to Couture, has become a highlight of the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF). This year, DAAF will bring together more than 2000 artists from 70 art centres.

The Gorman and Mangkaja Arts Collection is on sale from Fri 2 Aug. 

Gorman & Mangkaja Arts Collection Wed 7 Aug | 7pm | $40-$110 | Darwin Convention Centre |

From Country to Couture Wed 7 Aug | 8.30pm | $40-$110 | Darwin Convention Centre |

Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Fri 9 - SUN 11 Aug | Darwin Convention Centre |

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