FASHION WITH A CONSCIENCE: AARLI FASHION
AARLI Fashion is a first nations brand with a conscience - specialising in custom-made, sustainable streetwear. Ethicality permeates this label, creating a unique aesthetic by up-cycling textiles and products into contemporary urban prints. First created in 2014, AARLI Fashion has partnered with several designers and brands - including well-known Nobody Denim who specialise in reconstructed denim street-wear. What better excuse to treat yourself than supporting a local-owned label committed to ethical and sustainable practices?
TJ Cowlishaw kinship lies with the Bardi people (grandmother's side), Ardyaloon (One Arm Point) of the Kimberleys, Western Australia (My family name: Hunter) and she is a descended from the Gypsy Chinese Pirates of Shanghai (grandfather's side) (My family name: Jan).
[TLSE] "What made you want to go into the fashion industry?"
[TJ Cowlishaw] "Since childhood, I have always had a passion for fashion!
As a young girl, because we didn’t have much money growing up, I learned to appreciate vintage fashion and costume design.
As a young girl modelling, I was surrounded by some iconic designers that paved the way for me and many others in this industry. From aunty Lenore Dempski from Paperbark woman whose collections have been acquired by Powerhouse Museum, to my uncle Ron Gidgup who I call the “Godfather of Indigenous fashion”, to the one and only Australian fashion icon Linda Jackson, who my mum used to take out to community. These designers inspired and influence me to this day.
As I grew up, I always helped my mother, who coordinated fashion events, at an early age. Then I trained as an Event Manager, and eventually I wanted to evolve and moved into textiles and fashion, after participating in the Australian Indigenous Fashion Design Week Program in 2012."
What is the message you try to emulate through your brand?
AARLI is a fashion label with a conscience. We’re a first nations brand that specialises in producing custom made sustainable + ethical streetwear. Since its establishment in 2013, AARLI has endeavoured to build its own unique aesthetic through the use of up-cycling remnant textiles/products, contemporary urban prints, and limited-edition dead-stock apparel.
I always wanted to be a role model within my family and my community, and I created this brand to inspire the next generation by giving opportunity and platforms for Indigenous Designers, models, and textile artists. My inspiration is for garments to save landfill, to recycle rubbish, and help be part of the change to remove unwanted plastic from our oceans and country.
Best piece of advice to new businesses trying to enter the industry?
Stay true to yourself, your ethics and vision of your brand/business. Remain persistent and never take no as a setbacks. Don’t ever give up – stay strong and be resilient!
Something you wish you knew before you started?
That this would be a very long not short- term journey. That this will take a minimum of five years to really establish my business, brand and reputation within the industry.
Can you tell us a bit more about the ‘deadly’ print?
AARLI specialises in custom-made streetwear and we wanted to branch out our products to develop a sustainable range that could be accessible + affordable for people in remote communities.
The Deadly apparel range came from approaching OCC Apparel in 2016 and establishing a dead-stock partnership to utilise all unwanted/unsold dead-stock garments from jumpers, to T-shirts, and eventually in 2018 launch a new range of snapback caps.
What does “Deadly” mean?
It’s a next generation slang term for Aboriginal/TSI people which means “cool” or “awesome”.
It’s a very common used word in our communities. But I don’t know the true history of DEADLY, but supposedly on Urban dictionary it’s a Irish term as well.
To check out AARLI Fashion's latest designs, click here.
WORDS | Brittany Ross
IMAGERY | AARLI Fashion