Via a new partnership with the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation’s Indigenous Fashion Projects, the retailer’s new Pathways Program, which was unveiled this week, will be a rolling, long-term initiative that provides support at all stages in the development of Indigenous fashion brands via mentoring, workshops, seminars and industry networking opportunities.
The first designer to enter the program will be Melbourne-based Denni Francisco, founder of the Ngali label, who was a finalist in the Fashion Design category at the recent inaugural National Indigenous Fashion Awards, another DAAF initiative.
According to David Giles-Kaye, head of DAAF’s Indigenous Fashion Projects, five to seven Indigenous designers will join the Pathways Program in its first 12 months.
Beyond a brief collaboration with Indigenous designer Lyn-Al Young in 2018, David Jones does not currently sell any Indigenous fashion brands, nor are there any immediate plans to stock any of the Pathways Program designers, according to David Jones’ head of sustainability Eloise Bishop.
“This is really just the beginning of the process,” said Bishop. “But we’re really excited about where it goes.”
On Monday, the retailer will also launch its fifth annual fundraising campaign in support of the Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation, which helps people in Australia’s most marginalized communities gain literacy skills.
This year David Jones has produced a series of “Literacy Is Freedom” T-shirts in collaboration with Australian fashion brands Camilla, Aje and P.E. Nation, as well as Levi’s Australia/New Zealand, with 100 percent of profits from sales to be donated to ALNF’s community initiatives.
“We launched our Reconciliation Action Plan in 2018 [a key pillar of David Jones’ Diversity and Inclusion Strategy], so our approach to working with Indigenous communities started in a more formal capacity back then,” said Bishop.
“But I think Black Lives Matter has highlighted a lot of the issues that are relevant to Australia, particularly the gap in a whole range of metrics that relate to Indigenous populations versus non-Indigenous populations. Whether it’s education — and that’s why we want to focus on literacy — or employment outcomes and how we can support emerging design talent, as we evolve through our journey, we’re very much looking at how we can use the David Jones platform to work in quite unique ways to help address some of those gaps.”