Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival – Indigenous Art

CIAF 15Daring to imagine and plan for what it might be possible to accomplish has been made possible through the significant achievements of our ancestors. In historical terms, the stories of Australia’s indigenous people remain a priority.

The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival 7 – 13 March 2016 was officially opened at Government House Melbourne on Sunday night March 6. This year the festival is featuring one of the strongest cultural and indigenous programs it has ever presented during its twenty-year history.

Indigenous culture has its own language of stylistic innovation and an aesthetic unique to their way of experiencing and interpreting the contemporary world.

They offer art works that allow us to interrogate, chronicle and conceptualize time past, present and future.

Garments by Australian Aboriginal designers, together with those from Australia’s multicultural mixture of peoples, from Torres Strait Islanders, Canada’s First Nations, Native American Indians, New Zealand Maoris and Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Island nations – all will grace the catwalk.

A fashion performance pre-show Birrimbi Dulgu Bajal held on March 3 in Melbourne at the Showtime Events Centre began as a dream for the principals of Mornington Island Art Designs (MIArt Designs) in Northern Queensland, a collective of artists known for their colourful paintings.

CIAF 4Recently turned into a fashion reality via the Cairns Indigenous Art fair, eleven Indigenous designers, together with twenty male and female models graced the runway with their wondrous ‘wearable art’.

The works were by such as artists Teho Ropeyarn, Ailan Pasin and Nickeema Williams from Yarrabah Arts, Bana Yirriji Art, Erub Art Centre, Ylanji Arts Centre, MIAR, and beyond together with fashion designers Cynthia Vogler of Paradeese, Toby and Shannon Cedar of CDA Balas Designs, Lynelle Flinders of Sown in Time, and Grace Lillia participated.

Birrimbi Dulgu Bajal roughly translates to rainforest and sea dreaming, and the runway show was a visual narrative about the wealth of sustenance that can be gathered in a rainforest or from the ocean reefs.

CIAF 14Its story was told best through the colours, textures and textiles that formed the works, which also drew upon on a rich history of Indigenous music and dance to complement the clothing on show and to reflect its cultural roots.

The vibrant colours represented the many stories of the dreamtime and the magic of the Indigenous creator god or rainbow serpent, a much loved motif in the art of Aboriginal Australia.

It also included the many colours of birds as they soar against the sea and sky on Mornington Island, the northernmost of 22 islands in the Gulf or Carpentaria.


For the majority of designers this was the first time they had ever left their hometowns of Far North Queensland. So it was both exciting and a little daunting for this group of young Australians, who should benefit greatly from the experience.

The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival 7 – 13 March offers many diverse and different premium runways in this style capital of Australia. There is a free program of pre-and-post show activities and parties every day during the Festival week.

The International Women’s Day Forum takes place on Tuesday March 8, there’s a Business Breakfast Series, a Business Seminar, the K&L Gates Law Breakfast, the Fashion Industry Forum and more.

Celebrate the 20th anniversary of this amazing festival of fashion in Melbourne and enjoy the party atmosphere.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016

Images: courtesy Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) fashion performance



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