Natalie Wakeling grew up in Mudgee, in rural NSW and a primary part of her childhood was her family boutique fashion store. She travelled the world as a model for Ford Models and was an ambassador for some of the best Australian Plus Size labels. Transitioning from model to designer Natalie eventually settled with her husband and three sons in the Northern Beaches, Sydney.
In 2006, Natalie launched a denim range and her priority was all about the fit, structure, and quality of each garment in her range, passionate about designing denim that fits all women’s bodies. Natalie then expanded her collection to include tailored skirts, designer dresses and classic jackets under her label Embody. Embody was established with the ethos that size does not define style and with the spirit of the customers that love to support and wear an Australian owned and made brand.
In May, 2022 Afterpay Australian Fashion Week presented The Curve - Edit, a show where every woman in a range of everyday sizes, ages and colour walked the runway that featured six of Australia’s top plus size labels. These labels were 17 Sundays, Saint Somebody, Embody Women,
Vagary, Harlow and Zaliea Designs.
Hosted by Australia’s first plus-size modelling agency, Bella Management, it was a celebration of curves. In a culture of body shaming and diet culture this show was a revolutionary industry shake up. Embody is encouraging all of us that have the power to change the landscape of fashion size inclusiveness in Australia by bringing to public attention that “There has not been a major fashion media or print that has sought out interviews following the success of the Edit runway at Australian Fashion Week” and seeking support to run a full high end fashion campaign which she has named #realaustralianfashion.
Launching a Go Fund the objective is to execute a full editorial and digital campaign, consisting of high-end, inclusive Australian Fashion, worn by Australian women of various sizes, shapes and ages. The link to this Go Fund page is in our Syndicate bio. We would love all your help to make this campaign breathtaking and unforgettable. Follow @embodywomen for campaign updates and together we can give power to #realaustralianfashion.
Led by our own Jo Ferrandu, our team in partnership and support for artist Marina DeBris provided show logistics for Trashion Parade at Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival. For over 10 years Marina DeBris has been devoting herself to putting marine pollution in the public's collective face by fashioning selected bits into wearable art - trashion. This ongoing project is called "Beach Couture: A Haute Mess." It's making fashion statements into bold declarations. It's advocacy as entertainment! https://www.oceanloversfestival.com/
AAFW 2022 was all things inclusive this year with its first Curve Edit size inclusive runway and Adaptive runway showcasing creations for people with disability. Thank you to all the Show Producers, Designers and Collectives who entrusted us with the small and the major logistics this year.
Brookfield Properties Plastic Free July 2022. Congratulations to Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and the whole Plastic Free Foundation team who last year attracted an incredible 140 million participants across 190 countries to participate in Plastic Free July. We are endlessly inspired by the actions of the Plastic Free Foundation and the monumental grassroots movement it has created. James Griffin MP, Member for Manly and Minister for Environment and Heritage, Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Founder of Plastic Free July and Mathew Chandler, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Brookfield Properties conducted an insightful discussion about the war on plastic waste. Brookfield Properties is continually challenging us to innovate in waste and sustainability. Marina DeBris showcased her beautiful installations at the event. DeBris is an Australian-based “artivist” (an art/activist) whose work focuses on reusing trash to raise awareness of ocean and beach pollution. Jody from The Syndicate had the privilege of assisting Marina in the installations for Brookfield Properties.
Yousef Akbar is a Sydney based creative, his birthplace is Saudi Arabia. Akbar asked to study fashion in Australia. Worlds and industries and careers apart. He graduated from the Fashion Design Studio with immediate success, beginning his label to great reception. It was a privilege to be a part of the Back of House team with Jody worked tirelessly with Yousef, Georgie and their small team through many nights to bring this collection to life.
Creatively, Akbar said he was inspired by 16th Century Oriental fabrication and tailoring, as well as French painters of the same era whose subject revolved around Oriental culture. “It was interesting to see every day moments and subjects from my history and culture captured by a French painter. It made me feel a strong sense of nostalgia about my culture and home. I was seeing part of my identity, that I can still connect with today. And I wanted to express that.” (paraphrased Alissa Thomas - Grazia) Images: Jody Head and Getty Images for Australian Afterpay Week Yousef Akbar Runway
This June 3, on a day of national significance – Mabo day, also marked a historic milestone on the Australian fashion calendar. For the first time ever, six First Nations designers showcased their collections on the runway at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) on Gadigal Country. It was an honour to work alongside Perina Drummond, Event Group, DAAF and IFP for this historical show.
Presented by Indigenous Fashion Projects (IFP), a Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation program, partnering with IMG Fashion and David Jones, and curated by Perina Drummond, stylist and founder of Jira modeling agency, the runway brought together some of the nation’s most talented and highly awarded Indigenous designers to celebrate its long overdue position on the mainstage.
The designers were; Indii, Kirrikin, Liandra Swim, MAARA Collective, Native Swimwear and Ngali. All actively growing fashion brands, and part of the IFP Pathways Program, created together with David Jones with the aim of opening up opportunities for Indigenous labels through direct mentorships from the department store’s established Australian designers. Credit: Angela Arlow and Getty Images/@gettyimages for Afterpay Australian Fashion Week Indigenous Fashion Projects Runway.
Western Sydney Fashion Festival (WSFF) is an annual community event showcasing a fashion runaway for emerging and culturally diverse fashion designers. This year with 12 designers it was held at Canley Vale on Sat 22 May 2021.
Congratulations to Founder Thuy Nguyen for her tireless work to provide a platform and opportunity for designers to showcase their work. “It's developing a community and to let these fashion designers know that you're not alone,” she said. “There are a lot of amazing, talented people in Western Sydney and we shouldn't be shying away from the spotlight, we should be proud of it.” Designers either approach the organisation to be part of the festival or Thuy finds them through social media. Among the designers in this year’s festival is Alies Bol, founder of Frika Activewear, and mother-daughter duo Susan and Lakshmi Gowda, co-directors of Lakshmi Bee and Public Island Society.
In November, 2020 the Syndicate had the opportunity to meet Anthony Chesler team and volunteer for the day at Thread Together to see their operations.
In an ethical response to fashion waste and towards dignity and hope for a better tomorrow, Thread Together is a registered charity and Australia’s highest ethical response to fashion excess. Thread Together diverts end-of-line, new clothing apparel and footwear from landfill and redistributes it through a network of charities and social service agencies to Australians in need around the country.
HOW CAN PEOPLE FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THREAD TOGETHER AND GET INVOLVED?Thread Together truly believe in a collaborative approach to clothe communities and acknowledge that we do not have the human and financial resources to go it alone.
They need corporate and community volunteers to avail their time to assist us to sort, pick and pack with purpose in our fulfilment centre, to drive our fleet of mobile wardrobes and support our network of stylists in our fashion community hubs.
They need talented individuals to support us to deliver on some of our strategic priorities particularly where we have capacity and capability gaps specifically around marketing, social media, photography and copywriting.
They need introductions to new charities and social service agencies so that we can provide more clothing to people in need; introductions to new fashion partners to ensure we get clothing on to the backs of people doing it tough and not in landfill and introductions to networks for funding to ensure we can continue to deliver our services while we work on becoming financially self sufficient.
Finally, we are entirely reliant on philanthropic support and need financial and in-kind support to ensure that we can continue to deliver our services. For a donation of $5, we are able to provide a new wardrobe to a person in need. Please read the Australian Fashion Council update about how Thread Together were navigating the lock downs in 2020.
National Indigenous Fashion Awards
Australia’s First Nations fashion industry has finally had his spotlight to shine with having its first National Indigenous Fashion Awards hosted by Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and Indigenous Fashion Projects.
In November, 2019 as part of announcements for upcoming fashion projects The Syndicate were invited to the Australian Fashion Council Roundtable having been introduced by friend and Founder of Jira Models, Perina Drummond. Taking place at Citizen Wolf at Darling Square we were fortunate to meet Nina Fitzgerald, Clare Summers of Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, Bianca Hunt, Liandra Gaykamangu, Peter Naughtion of Artisans of Fashion and also Mark and Steph from Publisher Textiles. David Giles-Kaye the CEO of Australian Fashion Council at that time lead the meeting and workshop. Over the following months established stronger existing relationships with various groups within this network.
Most rewarding was meeting Elisha and Christian Hampson of Yerrabingin Gardens where we had planned our Sydney event for the upcoming awards. Unfortunately, this pandemic Covid had other ideas and as the Government restrictions changed from week to week it was safer to hold the event at a later date.
The Inaugural National Fashion Awards were to be held in Darwin on 5 August 2020 and we were all invited to nominate Designers and Artists who we felt should be considered. The Syndicate were so pleased for the following nominations in the following categories for NSW based artists and designers.
The Cultural Adornment and Wearable Art Award
Debra is a Sydney based artist and designer from the Palawa/Yorta Yorta and Gamilaraay/Wonnarua Nation.
Her artwork is a combination of Women’s business, which acknowledges the past whilst moving forward to the future. Her jewellery is made with a strong connection to country and the importance of looking after people and the environment. Her jewellery has been used in fashion runways, presentations, programs and collaborative workshops. (paraphrased: Indigenous Fashion Projects, Aug 2020)
Ngarrumiimi expresses some of the most exquisite artworks, handprinted fabrics and garments which are masterfully created by Lillardya Alirra Briggs-Houston who is a Wiradjuri Yorta Yorta Gangulu woman based in Narranderra, NSW.
Her pieces tell the story of the sandhills in Narranderra where her grandmother raised her. See her website for more of her creations. Ngarrumiimi was also nominated for the Textile Design Award category.
Textile Design Award
Dumphna Kerinaula, Kaye Brown, Michelle Woody, Nina Lydwina Puruntatameri, Corneila Tipuamanturmirri and Bernadette Mungtopi all from the Munupi Association Arts and Crafts Association, Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association and Naruwanajirri Arts all of whom are based on the Tiwi Islands.
These six artists share stories of their connection to country through Jilamara (design). Their work takes inspiration from being on country in the Tiwi Islands. The different symbols seen through their work include Japara the moon, Japalinga the stars, the sun, bush tucker and hunting. Their beautiful designs were included in fashion labels North 2019 Tiwi collection. The Syndicate had the privilege of being able to include some of the pieces of this collection in a small event for Inspirational Indigenous Women in August, 2019.
The Community Collaboration Award
So, pleased that Babbarra Designs based in Maningrida were nominated alongside Publisher Textiles for this special award. Having worked together for 20 years together they have produced hundreds of metres of fabric and have been able to improve and increase printing out on Country.
Babbarra have 25 incredible artists and The Syndicate is pleased to have been able to acquire a textile artwork by artist Janet Marawarr following the trip by Babbarra ladies to Paris, France last year.
Environmental and Social Contribution Award
Liandra Swim is intent on making a positive and impacting the environmental and social space in fashion. Their signature and culturally infused prints are digitally created in-house and named after inspiring Indigenous Australian women. Each collection of new designs and prints highlights the achievements of these woman a perfect, contemporary and unique way to share culture through the wider community. Liandra Swim was also deserving nominated for the Fashion Design Award.
Fashion Design Award
As Ambassadors for Ngali Australia we were so happy to see Denni Francisco and team be nominated for the Fashion Design Award. Ngali blends quality garments in modern silhouettes, layered with evocative Indigenous art and photography.
The label is working towards a scalable business model and contributes to a few social projects including a place called Papunya a remote Aboriginal community north west of Alice Springs. It is known for being the birthplace of the contemporary Aboriginal art movement in Australia. Ngali is part of B1G1 Worth Cause in one of the most remote communities in the world with harsh weather climate, where children are able to learn on donated computers, supervised by volunteers who teach the children about the internet with limited access.
MAARA Collective with Designer Julie Shaw was one of our NSW Finalists and the overall winner of the Fashion Design Award and also Community Collaboration Award. Within her designs and the also the name of her label honours the ‘many hands’ that are involved in her collections. Growing up in Lightning Ridge on Yuwaalaraay Country, NSW. She carries the strong cultural value of sharing and collaboration. Her hand dye ombre pieces are hand-dyed and inspired by Lightning Ridge sunsets.
NIFA was screened on 5 August 2020 and the stories of the finalists were expressed beautifully through the broadcast. The winners were:-
FASHION DESIGN AWARD
MAARA Collective is an Australian luxury resortwear line embracing a collaborative approach to fashion and lifestyle.
Founder/Creative Director Julie Shaw, a Yuwaalaraay woman from NSW Australia, has developed this premium line to showcase and celebrate Indigenous art + fashion.
The word MAARA refers to ‘hands’ in the Yuwaalaraay and Gamilaraay language groups.
MAARA works in collaboration with key Indigenous artists and artisans, drawing inspiration from Country to create a contemporary fashion & lifestyle brand with a luxe aesthetic.
The Resort ‘20 Collection, produced in collaboration with Bula’bula Art Centre of N/E Arnhem Land debuted at the Darwin Art Fair as part of the ‘From Country to Couture’ runway show.
CULTURAL ADORNMENT AND WEARABLE ART AWARD
Peggy Griffiths created the stunning Legacy Dress which has layers of linen and canvas hand painted by Peggy depicting Jilinybeng (bush cucumber) other layers of the dress were made by Peggy’s grand daughters. The Legacy Dress bought young and old artists together through a form of art they enjoy being Fashion.
TEXTILE DESIGN AWARD
Kieren Karritpul of Merrepen Arts
Kieren Karritpul is 26 and an artist and fabric designer from Nauiyu in the NT, who takes inspiration from the fishing nets of his youth and dreamtime stories. Kieren’s screen printed fabrics are stocked at Darwin’s Clothing Hub. Kieren likes that his art is an important to tell all stories in a new way. His work will feature in the Aboriginal Screen-Printed Textiles from Australia’s Top End exhibition in the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles.
COMMUNITY COLLABORATION AWARD
Julie Shaw x Bula’Bula Arts
Mary Dhapalany, Evonne Munuyngu and Margaret Malibirr are master weavers for Bula’bula Arts. Weaving since they were kids, they inherited this skill from generations before them. Collecting pandanus, harvesting materials and shaping various objects. Hilary Crawford, CEO of Bula’Bula Arts Aboriginal Corporation welcomed Julie to Yolngu country to work with the master weavers on a collection of accessories. These beautiful weaved headwear that are layered from the centre out and are exquisite creations that were seen on the Country to Couture 2019.
SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD
Bede Tungutalum is well known in the Australian Art Scene founded the iconic Tiwi fabric and label design Tiwi Design with Giovanni Tipungwuiti in the 1970’s. Bede created the digital print called ‘Arawunikiri’ which was created to celebrate 50 years in business. He says of his art is a continuation of their culture, from the past into their future.
SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONTRIBUTION AWARD
Ninti One means ‘clever one’ in the Arrernte Aboriginal language. Niniti One helped to support and advocate for a project for artists who create string bags known as ‘bilum’ which are inspired by the knowledge of Aboriginal Art and Fashion economies to Papua New Guinea. These bags are a vital source of female artisans and have cultural significance. They carry food, firewood and the craft are passed down from one generation to the next. However, there are cheap machine-made knock offs being sold at markets. This practice is impacting the livelihoods. Ninti One advocated for law reform and worked with locals to create an intellectual property framework and helping to protect Intellectual Property and sustaining cultural identity across generations.
Congratulations to the all the Nominees and Winners of Australia’s first ever National Fashion Indigenous Awards.
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With 15 years of experience between us, we are a team of like minded professionals working with inspirational creatives who will push the envelope in pursuit of creative excellence. Our first blog will be posted January, 2019.