SYDNEY — Thanks to a sudden COVID-19 flare-up and snap lockdown in Melbourne last week, the first thing greeting Afterpay Australian Fashion Week delegates as they arrive at Sydney’s Carriageworks venue on Monday morning will be a mandatory temperature check.
The next order of business will be a 60,000-year-old Indigenous smoking ceremony — a first for the event.
Performed inside a fluorescent pink sand circle by members of the Muggera Dance Company, holding branches of smoldering eucalyptus leaves, Monday morning’s “Welcome to Country” will be accompanied by words from local Traditional Owner Matthew Doyle to welcome the delegation to Gadigal Country; Indigenous MC Jarron Andy; a didgeridoo player, and four new Indigenous modeling faces who have been signed to IMG Models over the past 12 months, the latter wearing Indigenous-designed pieces from the upcoming Eucalyptusdom exhibition at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.
Welcome to Country was practiced in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for thousands of years before British settlement in 1788, as a traditional protocol via which one Indigenous people sought permission to enter another people’s land.
The performance has been produced and curated by First Nations Fashion and Design, a national voice representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives.
It will kick off AAFW’s resort 2022 collections showcase, which will feature 97 Australian and New Zealand fashion brands — almost 90 percent of which are presenting physical shows. They include over one dozen Indigenous designers in two separate runway showcases and via both on-site and virtual showrooms, the latter in partnership with Ordre.com. The AAFW: The Talks program also includes a panel discussion on the burgeoning First Nations fashion sector.
Canceled last year due to COVID-19, this year’s event was pushed back by several weeks from its usual time slot to allow designers still recovering from the pandemic to prepare their collections. By pure coincidence, the event falls this year on National Reconciliation Week, an annual celebration of Australian Indigenous history and culture, which aims to foster reconciliation discussions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who account for 3.3 percent of Australia’s population of 25 million.
“It’s like the ancestors planned it for us without us even thinking” FNFD’s chief executive officer Teagan Cowlishaw told WWD at Sunday’s Welcome to Country rehearsal, of the coincidental timing of the two events.
She added, “You couldn’t have timed it any better, it’s just a beautiful fusion.”