HSC outcomes
NSW DET
resources
Paperbark woman: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fashion design

Lenore Dembski: Paperbark Woman
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History of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander textiles
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Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander textiles
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Fabric decoration techniques used in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander textiles
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Symbols, motifs and ownership: marketing and copyright issues
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders: independence, art and politics
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Influence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander textiles on non-indigenous designers
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Take it further
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Glossary

Water lily laces designed by Lenore Dembski,  fabric by Leonie Gardner
Water lily laces designed by Lenore Dembski, fabric by Leonie Gardner

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers are today expressing their cultures in graphic design, jewellery, textiles and fashion. Their work sheds new light on traditional themes and motifs, revealing contrasts between the different regions of Australia. The energy and imagination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander design reveals a culture with a continuity that remains through the fickle changes of fashion.

Textile design techniques range from traditional fibre crafts to screen-printing, batik and hand-painting. The techniques reflect external influences such as training opportunities, travel and market forces.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers often reflect the Australian landscape in their work. The symbols and motifs they use vary from region to region and have great cultural significance. This raises issues of ownership, copyright and licensing agreements.

Clothing is perhaps one of the most immediate ways that a person can express how they feel about themselves and their culture, their political views and aspirations. Community-based enterprises have provided a network for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers whereby they can sell their designs and work together to solve production and distribution problems. Young workers can be employed in work schemes and many communities find this has far-reaching effects upon their self-image and financial status.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander design is popular for its fresh and dynamic graphic qualities, which contrast with mainstream fashion. The influence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander design on non-indigenous designers can be seen in the collections of a number of contemporary designers. How the textile design is acknowledged and how the designer is rewarded is of critical importance.

Department of Education and Training
Case studies developed by the Professional Support and Curriculum Directorate and supported by the Multicultural Programs Unit of the NSW Department of Education and Training in partnership with the Powerhouse Museum
Powerhouse Museum