As we begin to emerge from COVID-19 hibernation, those of us who haven’t been consoling ourselves with at-home internet shopping may be starting to look for a little something new to buy, given we almost missed an entire season.
Retailers have begun to go on sale already, and yes, we can all buy a mass-produced marked down sweater if we want to, but something about shopping, and the purpose of shopping, feels different to me now.
The recent Black Lives Matter protests in Australia, and around the world, have raised the question of how a non-Indigenous person could be an ally to the Indigenous community, and numerous conversations were ignited on social media about how to spend money, aside from donations, to directly support Indigenous-owned businesses.
If we have money to spend, why not make a more informed decision about where the profits are going and support local creatives?
Olivia Williams is a university graduate who works in the arts sector, (Williams grew up on Biripi country and her family comes from Wiradjuri country) who began her Instagram account @BlakBusiness as a passion project in 2018.
The account is a brilliant resource which not only promotes a variety of Indigenous-owned and run businesses, but also provides sound advice on how to know the difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation, something that can sometimes be lost on a tone-deaf fashion crowd.
For example, as a non-Indigenous person should you wear an Aboriginal flag T-shirt, or get a tattoo in Aboriginal language? No.
But buy an “Always Was, Always Will Be” T-shirt? Absolutely. Just make sure the money is going to an Indigenous business.
“I started the page to share information about the things I often found myself talking about with other mob (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) as well as non-Indigenous people.” says Williams.
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“BlakBusiness is a space which shares a variety of content: guides on significant dates, petitions, resources for teaching, books and television show recommendations, and the work of creatives.
“I have also hosted a number of Instagram story takeovers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people engaged in different areas such as art, healing, education, and fashion to showcase their work and passions.”
There are numerous Indigenous fashion designers and artists collectives producing beautiful handmade pieces, original and authentic, truly exciting to discover and light years away from Zara, such as Bush Magic Metal’s fab chunky opal jewellery, Jooberdy Jo, and her gorgeous oversized handwoven raffia earrings, bright printed swimwear at Liandra Swim, Bimbi Love’s emu print or yaldara tree snake earrings, the Kirrikin label which promotes breezy caftans, beachwear coverups and accessories from various indigenous artists and the high fidelity textile label Lore by Shannon Brett.
Another inspiring Instagram account to follow is @ausindigenousfashion curated by Yatu Widders Hunt which will also send you down a rabbit hole of new fashion to experience, and this is even before you’ve reached some of the glorious art collectives such as @tjanpidesertweavers, @warakurna_artists, @tangentyere artists and @yarrenyty_arltere.
Great fashion and indeed shopping experiences are always about discovery and newness. And also, in the best-case scenario, heart.