First Nations fashion brand Yapa Mali debuts at Melbourne Fashion Festival

Republished from National Indigenous Times

Phoebe Blogg – March 8, 2024

Young, driven and incredibly passionate about fashion, Indigenous culture and community, Maddy Hope-Hodgetts is the talented founder and designer behind Indigenous fashion brand, Yapa Mali.

Having created and grown her business on her own, in 2024 Hope-Hodgetts has achieved yet another impressive milestone by securing a spot for Yapa Mali to showcase on the PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival runway.

Since Style Up caught up with Hope-Hodgetts last year at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, the young designer has gone from project to project. 

“The last few months I’ve been painting a very special artwork for the new print and designing new garments. I’ve also spent some very long hours on country collection materials and even longer hand-making some adornment pieces for the collection,” Hope-Hodgetts said.

“I was lucky to be successful for the Flourish First Nations Textile & Design grant, which has allowed me to design and create my new collection.”

Now kicking off March with a presentation at Melbourne Fashion Festival (MFF), Hope-Hodgetts continues to push her fashion brand into the spotlight. 

After speaking with Hope-Hodgetts earlier in the week, it was clear she was thrilled to be featured in MFF and visit Melbourne for the very first time.

“This will be my first time there (Melbourne), also my first time visiting Melbourne since I was a kid so I’m looking forward to seeing the city,” she said.

“I’m most looking forward to the Emerging Mob in Fashion show, it’s really exciting any time mob come together to share their culture and work, it’s going to be a very special show.”

Yapa Mali on the runway at Paypal Melbourne Fashion Festival. (Image: Lucas Dawson)

Having presented alongside several other talented First Nations fashion designers, Hope-Hodgetts said Yapa Mali’s collection was a direct reflection of both herself and the brand’s symbolic cultural references.

“I’m showcasing the Kirralaampuwan collection, which tells the story of a very special place here on Wangaaypuwan Country. The Ngurrumpaa (dreamtime) story shares important cultural lessons and is a reminder for everyone to share and not be greedy,” Hope-Hodgetts told Style Up.

“I’m hoping that the story inspires others to remember culture is for everyone and to truly revitalise it, we must come together and share our knowledge with one another.

“The story is told through the print of this collection, while also reflecting the fallen stars from the story on some adornment pieces.

“Shortly after the show, the collection will be available to purchase.”

Yapa Mali designer Maddy Hope-Hodgetts assists backstage before Yapa Mali walks the runway. (Image: Dan Castano) 

When discussing the fashion industry and First Nations fashion, the young designer said it’s great to see several First Nations-founded fashion brands.

There is space for numerous Indigenous designers to succeed in the field and Hope-Hodgetts is here to embrace the idea that we should all be supporting and encouraging one another.

“We are seeing more mob start their own fashion brands, which is deadly to see,” she said.

“I love seeing everyone’s unique styles, artworks and pieces that reflect their country. That’s what our culture is about, creating, sharing and storytelling, it’s beautiful to see.”

A model backsatge wearing Yapa Mali. (Image: Dan Castano) 

Whilst she is always working on what’s nextHope-Hodgetts said it is important for her to take a break from fashion every now and then to reconnect with country, rest and focus on her community.

“I’m planning some special cultural camps on country in my community over the next few months so that will keep me busy,” she said.

“It’s also important for me to take a break from fashion every few months, so I can reconnect with country and focus on growing culture within the community.”

With an impressive MFF debut and a series of cultural community programs soon to commence, Hope-Hodgetts is an inspiration to not only young Indigenous designers but those looking to make a real change in both the fashion industry and the broader creative industry.

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