Noongar designs to be showcased at LA Fashion Week

Shannon VerhagenBunbury Herald
Bunbury Noongar artists Troy and Tahlia Bennell are heading to LA Fashion Week with Deadly Denim in October, showcasing their artwork on denim jackets.
Camera IconBunbury Noongar artists Troy and Tahlia Bennell are heading to LA Fashion Week with Deadly Denim in October, showcasing their artwork on denim jackets. Credit: Shannon Verhagen

The west coasts of WA and LA will collide come October when a group of First Nation artists bringa the US its first Noongar fashion show for LA Fashion Week.

And Bunbury father-daughter duo Troy and Tahlia Bennell, pictured, are getting their designs ready.

A collaboration between clothing label Deadly Denim and four WA artists — Mr and Ms Bennell, Albany’s Kiya Watt and Perth’s Julianne Wade — Noongar Nation will celebrate culture and art on the global stage. For those involved, it is a bit surreal.

“I’m absolutely rapt,” Deadly Denim founder Rebecca Rickard said.

Starting the not-for-profit label after doing it as a hobby, the Whadjuk Ballardong Noongar woman from Peppermint Grove never expected to be knocking on the door of LA Fashion Week just 18 months later.

“It’s just sort of taken off,” she said.

Sourcing vest, jackets and skirts from op shops, the designer then collaborates with indigenous artists, printing their work onto material and sewing it onto the clothes.

After emailing samples to LAFW organisers, her dream to go international soon became a reality when they offered her a spot in the world famous show.

Bunbury Noongar artists Troy and Tahlia Bennell are heading to LA Fashion Week with Deadly Denim in October, showcasing their artwork on denim jackets.
Camera IconBunbury Noongar artists Troy and Tahlia Bennell are heading to LA Fashion Week with Deadly Denim in October, showcasing their artwork on denim jackets. Credit: Shannon Verhagen

For Maambakoort (saltwater) girl Ms Bennell, it is the opportunity of a lifetime, made even more special by having her father by her side.

I’ve been painting ever since I can remember, about six years-old. I used to sit beside Dad and watch him paint.

Tahlia Bennell

“Steal my paint,” Mr Bennell laughed.

“Dad’s taught me everything I know,” Ms Bennell said. Inspired by the ocean, coral and cultural connection to Noongar country, Ms Bennell creates colourful pieces, with her first design for Noongar Nation featuring waves and her favourite flower, bain (pigface).

“I love that I can express my colourful side and bring a different style to Noongar art, because you don’t really see my style with the pours and the patterns,” she said.

One of the artworks Tahlia Bennell has created which will be showcased on a denim jacket at LA Fashion Week.
Camera IconOne of the artworks Tahlia Bennell has created which will be showcased on a denim jacket at LA Fashion Week.

While well known in the art world, it will be Mr Bennell’s debut in the fashion world. He will play an important role in sharing Noongar culture through storytelling and dance, and is hoping to play didgeridoo as the models walk.

“The best thing for me is helping out in a cultural role,” he said.

This could be a big opportunity every year for the new crew coming through, so all of a sudden we’re creating an industry for Noongar kids, artists, for the future. It’s pretty powerful.

Troy Bennell

Needing $20,000 for the trip, the group have created a fundraising page.

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