Culture meets couture

By Julian Lehnert

A night spent in and around Fortitude Valley’s new King Street district often means drinks, song and revelry at one of the precinct’s many bars and restaurants.

The showcase of an ambitious fashion collaboration at craft and design space artisan proved, however, that community, solidarity and the fine arts fit just as well in our nights out on the town as wine and cheap thrills.

‘Wubuul Buii’ means ‘together — not just in the language of the Indigenous populations of Cape York, but also as the motto of the eponymous project featuring a range of unique textiles and clothes designed by QUT students.

The project, which is now in its second year, has seen the third- and fourth-year fashion and design students collaborate with women living in Hope Vale in Queensland’s far north.

Combining ancient tradition and craftsmanship with personal stories, impressions and motivations, these women provided the hand-dyed and -painted fabrics which were then fashioned into runway-ready dresses and accessories by QUT’s best and brightest.

Having already made the rounds at Cairns’ prestigious Indigenous Art Fair, the designs have made their way to Brisbane, where they are now being exhibited.

Opening night saw many of the women responsible for the designs join students and business leaders in an evening of celebration, allowing for true ‘togetherness’ of young and old, tradition and technology, art and industry.

Joash Teo, a fourth-year fashion design student, described his collaboration with Hope Vale local Grace Rosendale and the resulting product — a stunning silk organza dress adorned with leaves as “a privilege.”

Being fashion — in essence, wearable art — Joash’s work, as well as that of his fellow students, has not just turned heads at fashion shows and exhibitions — it has also helped to shine a light on the traditions and stories of the culture that inspired it.

This culture was on full display during the exhibition’s opening night, as Hope Vale’s women entertained the artisan crowd with a traditional song, making it clear for all to see that, in the words of Hope Vale local Melanie Gibson, “the stories of our elderly artists will now live on forever.”