Lee: Fashion is very tangible and relatable and accessible. I like to call it a soft entry into reconciliation and healing our people – not only our mob, but also Australians who want to learn and feel more connected to our Country. It is an act of preservation of our cultural knowledge; an act of being proud of who we are and where we come from – which is totally what I did, personally.
I think we have a lot of knowledge to share collectively, but it’s important to ensure that we’re doing it ethically. Is the industry actually thriving? Are the people actually earning the money that’s needed? Is the support there?
Hobson: I think that’s why what you’re doing with First Nations Fashion Design is so important. There has been a big gap in the market, and there hasn’t been that peak body representation for Indigenous people in Australia.
Lee: The fashion industry on a broader scale has been pretty much based on trends. And it kind of does feel like – unfortunately, because of the power of the BLM movement – it’s become more “fashionable” for people to engage with Indigenous artists.
The attention that we’re getting has been crazy, and we are trying to be very mindful of why people are pivoting, and why they are wanting to support this direction. If engaging is seen as just a trend, or just a “moment”, it’s not sustainable.
Hobson: You’re so right. It’s going beyond tokenistic gestures and asking the question, “What more are we doing with communities to ensure sustainable livelihoods?”
It is really about self determination. Not just, “I feel fulfilled now that I’ve worked with Indigenous people and now I’m going to go back and just keep doing what I was before”.