Prestigious boost for two FNQ designers
THE ICONIC AND FIRST NATIONS FASHION & DESIGN
Photos by Pat Stevenson
Far North Queensland designers Elverina Johnson and Briana Enoch were two out of three designers selected from across the country to take part in the new THE ICONIC and First Nations Fashion + Design (FNFD) Incubator Program that promotes First Nations fashion brands.
First Nations designers and creatives from around Australia were shortlisted by an expert panel from the fashion, design and First Nations communities. The successful designers were handpicked from the shortlist for their outstanding craftsmanship and unique designs.
The pilot program will span over seven months, aiming to support First Nations designers through hands-on learning experiences, network expansion, business guidance and industry and manufacturing development. At the conclusion of the Incubator Program, designers will take part in an eCommerce shoot and be invited to sell their collections on THE ICONIC.
Elverina Johnson is a well-known Gunggandji woman from Yarrabah. Her brand Pink Fish is all about representing her community and the Gunggandji people and the stories that have been passed down from her Ancestors. Elverina’s pieces encapsulate boldness, bright colours, the reef, rainforest and her life growing up in Far North Queensland.
Briana Enoch is a Kuku Yalanji, Quandamooka and Kaantju woman from Kuranda who founded Jarawee (meaning pretty little bird), a brand that started out as products of hand-painted accessories. In 2021 Briana debuted a collection of high-end fashion at Australian Afterpay Fashion Week, including ‘The Quandamooka Collection’. Following her debut, one of the dresses was included in the Powerhouse ‘Eucalyptusdom’ exhibition. Briana draws inspiration from storytelling, with her Eucalyptusdom dresses being inspired by elements of her Father’s Quandamooka Country, healing stories on Stradbroke Island and the eucalyptus and its many uses and benefits.
The third selection includes Mt Isa designers and sisters Glenda McCulloch, Cheryl Perez, Jaunita Doyle and Dale Bruce of the fashion label Myrrdah.
Over the seven-month period, the designers will participate in workshops, events and experiences developed by a range of industry experts and educators, such as The Hanes group and Epson, with ongoing feedback from the indigenous creative community. Topics covered will include branding and business plans, design and product development, merchandising, marketing and commercialisation, delivered through tours, classroom sessions, e-learning and one-on-one meetups with mentors. At the conclusion of the program, the designers will have the opportunity to take part in an eCommerce shoot and will be invited to sell their collection on THE ICONIC in the future.
“We are thrilled to welcome the designers into our first ever Incubator Program in partnership with FNFD,” said Gayle Burchell, THE ICONIC’s chief commercial and sustainability officer. “As incredibly talented creatives who have already made their mark on the fashion industry, we’re honoured to share our e-commerce, tech and retail experience with them to further support the commercial scaling of their brands.
“We’re also humbled and excited to learn from these talented designers and our partners at FNFD to better facilitate the economic empowerment and viability of the First Nations fashion industry.”
THE ICONIC and FNFD have also announced the industry and cultural mentors who will provide invaluable expertise and guidance to the designers throughout the duration of the Incubator Program and beyond. The industry mentors include Australian designers and fashion industry icons, co-founder of P.E Nation Pip Edwards, founder and creative director of BY JOHNNY Johnny Schembri and Kinga Csilla’s creative director Laura Liles and director Tristan Liles.
They will be joined by highly respected cultural mentors Shonae Hobson, who is curator at First Nations Art at the National Gallery of Victoria, Julie Shaw, founder and creative director of Maara Collective and Yatu Widders, who is the general manager at Cox Inall Ridgeway and a board member of the Australian Fashion Council.
“I am excited to be involved in THE ICONIC and FNFD incubator program this year as an industry mentor,” said Ms Edwards. “It is an honour to be able to bring my working knowledge of the industry to this next generation of design talent, fusing this experience with their passion and interpretation of print, colour and texture which is so special and unique.”
Grace Lillian Lee, FNFD’s founder and chair said, “When we were creating the program in partnership with THE ICONIC, we wanted to ensure first and foremost that it was a two-way learning experience for everyone involved. We are grateful for the support from THE ICONIC and our industry and cultural mentors who will dedicate their time to help guide our participants, and we look forward to seeing their development over the course of this exciting program.”
First Nations designers and creatives from around Australia were shortlisted by an expert panel from the fashion, design and First Nations communities.