yatu widders hunt is an advocate for indigenous fashion
Meet an everyday activist.
Every day we make choices that impact the world we live in – even tiny decisions, like choosing which pair of sneakers to buy, can make a difference. We spoke to the super-inspiring Yatu Widders Hunt about making positive change by supporting the Indigenous fashion industry and practising sustainability.
Hey Yatu! Tell us a bit about yourself. I’m a Dunghutti and Anaiwan person. My family is originally from the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales, but I was mostly raised in Sydney. I grew up in an incredibly political household, so social justice has always been a passion. I’m a director at an Aboriginal PR and research agency in Sydney, Cox Inall Ridgeway. We call ourselves a ‘social change agency’ because that’s at the heart of everything we do.
You also run the Australian Indigenous Fashion Instagram account. What inspired you to start it? While working as a freelance journalist, I covered a lot of stories about what was going on in Indigenous fashion. I just couldn’t believe it wasn’t getting a lot of attention in the mainstream press. I wanted to show people how diverse, beautiful, vibrant and contemporary it is. The Indigenous fashion industry is more than 60,000 years old, so for me, it’s very much the anchor of the Australian fashion industry – it’s an unbroken tradition. Fashion is one of the ways broader Australia can start to embrace and celebrate Indigenous history and peoples. It has a purpose beyond the aesthetic.
Sustainability is a big topic in the fashion world. Is it approached differently by Indigenous designers? I think it was designer Alison Page who famously said, “You can call it sustainable fashion or you can just call it Aboriginal design.” It’s something we’re born with a cultural obligation to do: tread lightly on the earth, care for Country and care for our communities. For example, collections from some Aboriginal brands may be delivered at certain times of the year, because that’s when materials are available. There may be smaller runs because we’re mindful of the resources we’re using to create them. I think the broader Australian fashion community has a lot to learn about sustainability from Indigenous designers, because it’s something we’ve been practising for tens of thousands of years.
What can frankie readers do to be more sustainable with their fashion choices? I always like to go on different brands’ websites to make sure I’m personally comfortable with their sustainability approach and values. I tend to buy less and invest in pieces that are going to last a long time, rather than engage in the fast-fashion model. I also (probably weirdly) rent clothes sometimes! I subscribe to a fashion rental service, which means I can have fun and play with fashion, but I know I’m not consuming it.
How can we make sustainable choices in other areas of our lives? I’m mindful about how often I eat meat and I drive a hybrid car. Responsible banking is also top of mind – it’s something I definitely want to investigate. I think, as consumers, we’re becoming a lot savvier around asking critical questions of the organisations we engage with – whether that’s from a fashion or finance perspective. It does actually have a critical impact, particularly in sectors like banking, which have influence on which social and political decisions are made.
What are some of the benefits of supporting Indigenous fashion designers? Some of the works come from places like remote art centres, which are often the lifeblood of communities and are incredible economic drivers. Even buying something and wearing it contributes to positive social change, because it helps start conversations that would otherwise not be had. It shows we are proud – Indigenous history is part of who we are as a nation.
What are some of your personal favourite Indigenous artists or labels? It’s hard to choose favourites, but I really love the resort wear from MAARA Collective. I also love the beautiful silk dresses and pants from Ngali and the vibrant swimwear from Liandra Swim.
See more striking Indigenous apparel on Instagram at @ausindigenousfashion.
This chat took place in partnership with Bank Australia, a B Corp-certified bank that won’t invest your moolah in environmentally harmful industries. The simple act of switching banks is a powerful way to be more sustainable in your everyday life. Learn more at bankaust.com.au/cleanmoney