Headed up by Yuwaalaraay creative director Julie Shaw, Maara Collective’s luxurious resort wear is informed by a deep connection to community.  Julie’s brand honours collaboration in the creative processes, with “maara” translating to “hands” in the Yuwaalaraay and Gamilaraay language groups. It’s been a stellar couple of years for Julie and her label, and she’s been written into pretty much every chapter of the IFP story so far! We caught up with Julie to talk through her year of successes and all things sartorial.  Words | Camilla Wagstaff with Julie Shaw

Cover Image: Julie Shaw, designer and founder of MAARA Collective, image courtesy of the designer.

You participated in the Darwin Art Fair Foundation’s Country to Couture runway show in 2019. Can you speak to your experiences with this show, and what it meant to be a part of it?

Being involved in Country to Couture was something I had been dreaming of for a while. The opportunity to collaborate with the incredibly talented artists of remote Art Centres is so special. There is a community spirit and pride in culture that is so strong and powerful, and really sets this show apart.

You took out the Fashion Design Award and the the Community Collaboration Award, alongside Bula’bula Arts, at the inaurugal NIFA. What did the win mean to you?

The NIFA win marked a significant milestone in my career and it will always hold a very special place for me. It was an honour to have been nominated amongst so many talented Indigenous creatives who work tirelessly not only for the aesthetics of their brand or art practice, but for family, community and cultural reasons. It was so meaningful and important to have been a part of this movement in the rise and recognition of Indigenous fashion.

Model Charlee Fraser wears MAARA Collective, Tjukula print by Pitjantjatjara artist Lexie Michael, photo by Jesse-Leigh Elford, courtesy of Julie Shaw

What have you been up to since your NIFA win?

So much has happened since the NIFA win in 2020! Working through my business mentorship program with Country Road (part of the prize for the Fashion Design award), has been nothing short of amazing. The Country Road team have been incredibly generous with their time, knowledge and expertise, and are so invested in this mentorship program. I feel I’ve learnt so much from them already and the experience of working with the team out of head office in Melbourne has been invaluable. I’ve since worked on two more collaborations with Indigenous artists: Lucy Simpson of Gaawaa Miyay for our print collaboration and Krystal Hurst of Gillawarra Arts for our first jewellery collaboration. Both have been beautiful experiences to work with and learn from these amazing Indigenous women. I’ve also since been involved in several Australian design awards: The Australian Fashion Laureate in 2020 where I was a finalist in the Best Emerging Australian Designer category, and most recently placed finalist in the National Design Award for 2021. All of these experiences help to build on knowledge, connections and expertise which in turn strengthens the business and the positioning of the brand within the industry.

Model Nina Jorgensen wears MAARA Collective, Tjukula print by Pitjantjatjara artist Lexie Michael, photo by Jesse-Leigh Elford, courtesy of Julie Shaw 

You participated in the IFP x David Jones Pathways program. How does this program work, and what did you get out of it?

The IFP Pathways Program in its first year supported six First Nations fashion designers through a series of workshops and presentations from various departments and leaders within David Jones, providing insight into the workings of a national retailer.    Each designer was also matched with mentors on the program (Australian designers in the David Jones brand portfolio) who shared their learnings with us through one-on-one mentor sessions.    The program led to the IFP Runway show presented by David Jones at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, which was an incredible opportunity to present our brands to industry and media.    Finally came the opportunity to be part of the David Jones First Nations Designer Capsule Collection, showcasing our collections from the IFP runway available to purchase in store at Pacific Fair and online at David Jones.    Being part of this capsule collection was a great learning experience, and I know that it helped to take my business to the next level! I’ve put new systems and processes in place to support orders and deliveries to major retailers and department stores moving forward.

Tell me about your experience participating in the Indigenous Fashion Projects runway show at Australian Fashion Week!?

Being part of the Indigenous Fashion Projects runway was a significant opportunity to present our brands to the industry and media in a beautiful, sleek runway show.  Being part of the AAFW official schedule really shone a light on Indigenous design and celebrated our contributions to the Australian fashion industry. 

Is sustainability important to you? 

Sustainability is so important. We always strive to incorporate more sustainable practices into our business and everyday life. It’s all part of respect which is one of our key business values – respecting the environment and mother nature, respecting our people and respect for our future generations.

Models Guyala Bayles and Charlotte Wighton wear MAARA Collective, 2021, Photos by Jess James for David Jones.

Thanks For Reading

Thanks to Julie for sharing her story, you can follow MAARA Collective on Instagram and see more on their website HERE! If you’d like to hear more from IFP on our programs, subscribe to our newsletter HERE and see how you can support our programs and First Nations designers like Julie HERE.

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