‘Indigenous fashion is the future. It’s time for First Nations people to reclaim it’ | Fashion
Lee: I think a lot about what Leecee Carmichael (a Ngugi/Quandamooka artist and designer) speaks about, which is that weaving is the act of putting two fibres together and rubbing them on our legs. It has been happening for centuries, over 60,000 years. And this is the core essence of everything we’re wearing today.
The act of weaving is so simple, but so difficult as well, because it’s arduous and it’s repetitive and it’s long. Maybe it’s a bit like life – but then you can create this beautiful thing.
Hobson: Your practice is very much about traditional weaving techniques, and you do that through really beautiful and contemporary context. Can you talk to us a little bit about how you got to this point?
Lee: In my final year of studying fashion at RMIT, I took my grandmother back to the Torres Strait – she hadn’t returned for 57 years. I was very young, I was 21, and I was like, “What is going on here?”
My Nana asked: “What do you want to do about this?” And I realised I needed to make something to respond to it; the best way I knew how to react to the situation was through my creative practice. I created a collection called Intertwined, and I connected with Uncle Ken Thaiday.
Uncle Ken just kept inviting me back to learn more. I’d come in and bring my grandma, and they would have a yarn. Weaving with him was very organic. He wasn’t like, “I’m going to teach you this.” He was just doing it, and then I was like, “Ooh, can I have a try?”
Fashion was a way for me to understand my cultural identity and to be proud of that, because that was suppressed in my father’s upbringing.
Hobson: That concept of re-engaging with culture and community is so important.