Fashion

Jessica Mauboy On Opening The AAFW Indigenous Runway

The artist talks celebrating First Nation designers, her connection to community and the emotive story behind her new single.

By Kayla Wratten
Today marks the opening of Afterpay Australian Fashion Week 2022, the five-day event held each year across Gadigal Country (Sydney). Alongside live runway shows, street style inspiration, and fashion panels with industry leaders, it's also a platform for showcasing emerging talent and First Nations designers.
This year, award-winning Australian singer-songwriter Jessica Mauboy is set to open the Indigenous Fashion Projects runway with her new single, Automatic, which she co-wrote with Cosmo's Midnight and ASTON. The performance follows her recent announcement as community ambassador for the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation (DAAFF).
Born and raised in Darwin as a KuKu Yalanji and Wakaman woman, she says she couldn't help but feel emotional when taking on the role. "I think it's because of growing up on Country, knowing people in the community and knowing their responsibility for story and cultural ways and spirituality," she tells ELLE Australia.
The Voice coach is excited to be a part of the IFP runway, held on May 10 on-site at Carriageworks, supporting collections from renowned First Nations women that celebrate each designer's deep and personal connection to Country.
To kick off fashion week, we sit down for a yarn with Mauboy.
How do you feel about being involved in and opening the Indigenous Fashion Projects runway?
"I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it. My blood's rushing in such a celebrative way as I think of all the people that have walked before me and stood on the fashion ground to tell their stories. There's an undeniable feeling of 'I'm being part of this incredible movement' and I'm excited to be able to sing at that celebration.
"I'm nervous too, because I'll be playing it for the first time in front of so many people and my community. I want to be able to spread the word about what we're doing and why we're there, and how can we keep achieving and innovating in such a cultural and respectful way. I'll just sing my heart out."
Why are you so passionate about your new role as community ambassador?
"For me, knowing the talent that's within Indigenous communities across Australia, I can't help but be so proud to be seen as a role model who helps celebrate the knowledge and rich connection of First Nations art and design, culture and community. DAAF creates a platform for so many artists, art centres and programs, and learning they wanted me to be a part of that… I got emotional.
"Growing up on Larrakia Nation in the territory, I've always had that ability in me to want to support communities. Both of my parents and grandparents were always helping out in the community, and I think that's where I get that niche from. It's an imprint in everything that I do, and I feel like that's where my music comes from. If I know my community and my culture, then that gives me the confidence to go out and perform and create music... so it felt natural to be part of DAAFF."
Speaking of your music, what's the story behind your new single?
"Automatic is purely about oneself, in a liberating mode. It's going 'I'm the driver in the seat taking control of all aspects of my life.' No matter where you are, what place, how or when—this song is giving you an encouragement and a belief system where you can claim back what is yours to own, to grace and be proud of.
"It takes me back to growing up in Darwin and learning how to drive and bush bash in my Dad's ute. It's about trying things for the first time; they're not going to be smooth, but the more you get through it, the better it gets. Automatic has that energy and spark to take you far, and that's the heart statement of why I wrote it in the first place."
When do you feel most 'in control' and 'yourself' in what you're wearing?
"When things compliment my body. I have an hourglass body and I love to accentuate those curves. I love my curves and that's when I feel most myself, when I'm wearing things that bring out the personality of my physicality."
Which First Nations designers are you looking forward to supporting on the runway?
"When it comes to women, I'm all for my women. I'm such a fan of Ngali by Denni Francisco and Kirrikin by Amanda Healy. I recently wore some pieces from Maara Collective because I just can't resist Julie Shaw's work. I've known Liandra [Gaykamangu] even before she stepped onto the fashion scene with her swim line collection, and I remember her being so quiet. And now look at her; she's just grown so strong. It's all about supporting our First Nations as much as we can and seeing their incredible work. Because their stories are important, and they are literally paving a pathway for many coming up from DAAFF."
Jessica Mauboy's new single is out now.