As Summer approaches and we begin to see more clothing with a little less fabric in our Instagram feeds and shop windows, the diversity of Indigenous swimwear is really starting to shine.
Indigenous fashion and textile sectors are thriving both here and overseas, and in a country synonymous with the hot weather, there is no surprise there's a strong presence of swim and resort wear.
Some of these unique labels have achieved significant milestones, some gracing the catwalks of acclaimed fashion events, while others are driven to empower our people through social initiatives and reconnection to Country.
But importantly, they all honour the tradition of storytelling through art and design and share First Nations stories in contemporary, fun and colourful ways.
In the anticipation of hot, sunny days ahead of us, we have picked some of our favourite Indigenous swim labels and collaborations, which are perfect for the surf, sand, rivers and lakes — no matter whether you’re freshwater or saltwater.
Liandra Swim are the ‘new kids on the block’ of the Indigenous fashion scene, establishing just three years ago. Their versatile pieces can take you from the beach to brunch.
This growing business is 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned by founder and designer Liandra Gaykamangu and aims to celebrate Indigenous people and art by contemporising them through swimwear.
Although the brand’s artwork largely depicts a love of water, the Ochre Dust Print in both the one and two-piece sets, is a particular stand out and adds a gorgeous earthy tone to the range.
What is more, Liandra are focused on being a sustainable brand, with their new fabrics made from regenerated plastics collected from the ocean.
The brand itself strongly promotes body positivity and diversity in fashion and modelling, as well as the achievements of Indigenous female leaders in the community. Their website blog is dedicated to celebrating incredible women, with interviews profiling inspiring people such as sports legend Marcia Ella Duncan and astronomer Karlie Noon, among others.
As they gear up to launch their 2019/20 Summer Collection, we can expect bold signature prints and reversible options. A preview of their latest collection will be showcased at the upcoming Pacific Runway, Australia's leading Pacific Fashion event, at the Carriageworks in Sydney.
From Australia’s west coast, Kirrikin transitions from swim to resort wear with consistent vibrant colours and striking designs.
Operating since 2014, Kirrikin has gained a strong following from notable people including Samantha Harris, Gemma Ward and the Family Rules women.
The Wonnrua word ‘Kirrikin’ is thought to have referred to the concept of “Sunday Best”.
While Kirrikin boasts a range of one and two-piece suits, many know them for their exceptional range of kaftans, scarves and accessories that complete the summer look. One of the Kirrikin favourites, the Jessie Long Dress, is one such example; the perfect post-beach throw over to take you off the sand and out to lunch or dinner.
The company strongly aligns itself with ethical fashion and social enterprise, with the conscious label supporting not-for-profits such as NAIDOC events, the Starlight Foundation and even a women’s art program at Bandyup prison. They also pride themselves on being an eco-friendly business, where they largely work with sustainable fabric and recycled materials.
Native Swimwear Australia
Native Swimwear Australia is the first Indigenous Australian swimwear label to burst onto the international fashion scene, making history showcasing at New York Fashion Week in 2015.
The company works with a number of artists, who create incredibly vibrant designs which tell the individual artists' Dreaming stories upon the fabric. The Lappi Lappi print from artist Christine Nakamarra Curtis, for example, is one of the signature artworks from the current range and showcase the blue hues of the country’s waterways and rock holes.
The design-cut of the pieces themselves are inspired by the female body and how it changes through motherhood. They focus on breast and stomach support, with the label aiming to ensure that all women feel comfortable and confident in swim and resort wear.
A great thing about Native Swimwear Australia is that buyers can purchase mix-and-match options with two-piece sets, to create your own unique beach style.
Indii was created by Dunghutti woman Nancy Pattison who first started the label back in 2015. Distinctly different from other Indigenous labels, Indii showcases a light and pastel — somewhat minimalist — palette inspired by the tranquil beauty of the Dunghutti coastline and the surrounding landscape of Northern NSW.
With clean and crisp shapes, this brand epitomises the philosophy of sun, surf and sand.
Not only does Indii make laid-back clothing for coastal living, but behind the scenes they are also committed to supporting and empowering young Indigenous women. Nancy hosts SaltSista surf sessions, an initiative for Indigenous girls to come together and connect through surfing, as way to promote healthy living and connect with Country.
The cool palette really reflects the relaxed coastal culture with the stylish one-pieces are practical enough to pick up a board and hit the waves!
Life Apparel Co.
Gold Coast-based brand, Life Apparel Co., aims to ethically bring Indigenous art and culture to the forefront of Australian fashion.
It’s a proud member and advocate of the Indigenous Art Code, a project to preserve and promote ethical trading in Indigenous art, as it collaborates with a range of Indigenous artists for their collections.
Although the label creates a whole range of collections from street to activewear, their swim range really stands out with popping colours and a complimentary focus on saltwater stories.
Most recently, they have collaborated with artists such as Rachael Sarra and Shara Delaney, as well as models such as Sam Harris and Perry Mooney. Their online store uniquely allows you to search for swimwear by artist or story, giving customers a fantastic insight into the meaning behind the designs.
They also offer a range of protective rashies. Lara Went’s painting ‘Under the Garuwa’ features on one of the cute zip-ups and celebrates the love of diving under waves and becoming one with nature.
Yatu Widders Hunt is a Director at Indigenous social change agency, Cox Inall Ridgeway and founder and curator of the Australian Indigenous Fashion social media community. She has worked in communications for 15 years including for Federal Government, the Koori Mail and the NCIE. Follow Yatu @ausindigenousfashion