As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, National Indigenous Times shines a spotlight on Australia’s incredible First Nations women.

With a penchant for spotting opportunities before they’ve arisen, the brains behind Deadly Denim, Rebecca Rickard, is heading to LA Fashion Week (LAFW) in October.

What started as a side hustle while she completed her midwifery training, Rickard has now postponed her studies to concentrate on her booming brand and upcoming international show.

Crediting her “big mouth and no shame”, Rickard said she reached out to LAFW organisers in October last year after looking at their event online.

“They emailed back asking for some samples … [and] about two or three months later, they asked for more and we sent some photos from Perth Fashion Week,” Rickard said.

After four to five months of chatting back and forth, Rickard secured a contract in February to appear at LAFW as one of the designers.

“It feels great to go to an international platform. It feels good to be doing it as a collective.”

Recognising the opportunity to spread Indigenous Australian fashion design to the United States, Rickard then contacted popular painted denim jacket brand, Ginny’s Girl Gang.

“I asked her to share the runway [with Deadly Denim] … there are 20 pieces, so we’ll do ten each.

“She’s picked the theme of ‘Climate Change’ and I’ve got ‘Connection to Country’, so they tie in nicely together.”

Rickard in her new studio behind her house. Photo by Hannah Cross.

Rickard is taking an army of allies with her, including her daughter Rhiannon, past collaborating artist Kiya Watt, father-daughter artist duo Tahlia Bennell and Troy Bennell, artist Julianne Wade, Kimberley models Lakota Mitchell and Elizabeth Ashwin, and her Elder in Residence and cultural advisor, Aunty Kerry-Ann Winmar.

Although an exciting advancement of her brand, Rickard recognises it may be an uphill battle to get there. The cost of appearing as a designer alone is $10,000 USD.

Rickard and her supporters now have seven months to gather the funds required for the trip.

“We’re looking for sponsorship to cover the airfares and the cost of the show, and accommodation.

“We’ve got a lot of fundraisers [coming up] and we’ve got a crowd-funding page.

“We’re going to have some auction nights where the artist will auction off some art, they’ll paint on some jackets, I’ll auction some jackets … lots of community fundraising.”

Rickard uses art and textiles from artists and art centres. Photo by Hannah Cross.

Rickard’s Elder in Residence and cultural advisor, Aunty Kerry-Ann Winmar, also runs Nyungar Tours in Perth.

A bona fide yorga’s business, Nyungar Tours runs cultural workshops and tours around Kings Park, South Perth and the greater Perth area.

Winmar said her business allows Nyungar people to educate people about the stories that were handed down to she and other Nyungar Traditional Owners through the generations.

“We’ll probably have an event for fundraising with Nyungar Tours as part of getting [to LA],” Rickard added.

Winmar said her family stories have been passed down through generations, and Deadly Denim is continuing that process.

“This is important to us because this is our family history … we’re survivors … our stories, our songs, our language,” she said.

Winmar said historically, First Nations Peoples haven’t been allowed to tell their stories as they are, without interference.

“I want to tell our story, our way … [because] a lot of our stories really haven’t been told the right way.”

Rickard said showcasing at LAFW will allow Nyungar stories to be told in the right way and inspire the next generations to do the same.

“[It’s] the importance of preserving and sharing culture … it’s really good role modelling for Nyungar kids out there to see what you can do, to reach out and ask … the opportunities are there,” Rickard said.

“Ten years ago, I don’t think any Indigenous fashion designers from Australia had showcased internationally … if you look at the space now it’s just growing and growing.”

To help Deadly Denim on their journey to LA, you can head here to contribute.

Deadly Denim’s LA showcase will be exclusively Nyungar. Photo by Hannah Cross.

By Hannah Cross