Yanggurdi leads way for First Nations fashion labels on festival runway

The Urban Oasis Runway as part of Melbourne Fashion Week showcased First Nations designers.

The Urban Oasis Runway as part of Melbourne Fashion Week showcased First Nations designers. Photo: AAP

Unlike much of the fashion industry, the founder of Indigenous street label Yanggurdi is making garments that last.

“It’s more meaningful and and it fits really well with me, I feel really great about this collection,” designer Cassie Leatham said.

Leatham makes her garments to last five or six years and even have a life beyond that, being recycled into woven items such as baskets and bath mats.

The latest designs from the Taungurung-Dja Dja Wurrung designer and artist were on show at the Urban Oasis runway on Thursday as part of the Melbourne Fashion Festival.

The show featured First Nations designers alongside emerging and established street labels, including Moss Tunstall, Homie, Nungala Creative, Chris Ran Lin, Haus of Dizzy, Ginny’s Girl Gang and Gammin Threads.

Yanggurdi’s contribution combines new season pieces combined with key looks from Leatham’s last collection – her designs intentionally evolve more slowly than most labels, she said.

The label is inspired by walkabout on country, she told AAP.

“It tells a story about my weaving journey across country, coming in contact with my totem animals, collecting and foraging,” she said.

Leatham records her experiences in symbols and fine lines using sketches and block printing, with symbols that speak of the past, present and future.

“They are symbols of ancestors, the ones before me, that I still carry forward today with my weaving,” she said.

Taking part in runway shows with other Indigenous designers has been empowering, and she has noticed huge growth in First Nations fashion over the past decade.

Leatham said her label was not about making personal profit but garments that people of all sizes, shapes and genders could wear.

“I want people to wear everyday, really comfortable clothing that can create a conversation,” she said.

Her daughter also contributed to the show along with other young makers, and that too was about the future, Leatham said.

“It’s important to bring young ones through, and then maybe they could just take over.”

“I can go back to the bush tucker and hang out in the bush and they can do the journey of the fashion,” she said.

The Melbourne Fashion Festival runs until Saturday.


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