The red dust of Port Hedland is a world away from the gleaming catwalks of New York.
But a piece of the Pilbara will be debuting on the global fashion stage next month thanks to local artist Bobbi Lockyer and Perth-based fashion designer Rebecca Barlow.
Ms Lockyer is a Ngarluma, Kariyarra, Nyulnyul and Yawuru woman.
She is also a designer and photographer and a mum of four boys.
Her work is headed to New York Fashion Week printed on the back of a jacket made by Deadly Denim, a sustainable-fashion label owned by Ms Barlow, a Ballardong Whadjuk woman.
Ms Lockyer said knowing her designs would be on a world-famous fashion stage was “incredible”.
“To see my art and designs at New York Fashion Week is pretty amazing,” she said.
The achievement is not just a personal triumph — it is also an opportunity to showcase Indigenous Australian art to the world.
“It’s awesome to see our Indigenous culture and heritage represented in a huge mainstream event, and it’s pretty mind blowing to see that my work is up there.”
Ms Lockyer said her art was an important form of self expression and storytelling, inspired by her sons, her ancestors, and the beloved coastline of her hometown.
“As a mother, my children are definitely a huge inspiration for me,” she said.
“We’re always going to the beach, collecting shells and looking at the reef and even seeing the turtles nesting, and that all combines together to be an inspiration for me.”
Collaboration is key
The Deadly Denim collection headed for New York also features designs by four other Indigenous artists from around Australia.
Ms Barlow, the label’s creator, received a late call-up for the revered fashion event, and raised the $4,000 entry fee through crowdfunding in just two days.
She said it was a joy to collaborate with other First Nations artists.
“It feels really nice to be doing this with the artists, it feels like more of a collaborative effort than just me, myself, as a designer,” she said.
Ms Barlow said there was a growing movement of independent Indigenous artists and designers working to break into the mainstream fashion industry.
“From what I’ve seen and from speaking to other Indigenous designers, there’s quite a good community building, ” she said.
A creative community
Ms Lockyer said having her artwork paraded on the New York Fashion Week catwalk would be a memorable moment in a lifelong artistic journey — once she said she could not have made without the support of her family and community.
“I got into art and design as a young kid. My mum always encouraged my creative endeavours,” she said.
However, she said growing up in a regional town and trying to turn art into a career was not always easy.
“I was told my only options were to be a starving artist or an art teacher, and I didn’t want to be either of those,” she said.
“But then I had one beautiful art teacher who really encouraged me, and she steered me into graphic design … which opened up a whole new world for me and got me to where I am today.”
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Ms Lockyer said the most important thing for young Indigenous artists to remember was that they should persevere and embrace community connections for support.
“Connect with your ancestors, connect with your elders, and just put your heart and soul into it,” she said.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, New York Fashion Week will operate with reduced numbers this year.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Ms Lockyer and Ms Barlow — they will be streaming the event from the comfort of the very land which inspires their work, with the people who support them on their journeys.