AN AUSTRALIAN-FIRST exhibition in Bendigo is set to launch as the city's art gallery reopens after months closed to the public.
Piinpi will showcase the work of Indigenous fashion designers and textile producers.
Works range in style from haute couture to day wear, taking in every stage from textile to finished garments.
The Dja Dja Wurrung people - central Victoria's First Nations peoples - are represented with a possum skin cloak created by elder Rodney Carter.
Many of the garments have become the foundation for an Australian fashion collection at the Bendigo Art Gallery, acquired as part of the exhibition.
Exhibition curator and Kaantju woman Shonae Hobson said telling Indigenous history through an Indigenous lens was part of the exhibition's significance.
Ms Hobson said the end result was a testament to the profound work that First Nations designers and artists were doing, and the richness of their culture.
She said Piinpi was an exhibition long overdue in Australia.
"For me it was important to make sure that these artists' stories are told, but also to really reinforce the importance of First Nations fashion and design within the broader Australian fashion industry [and] ... Australian landscape," Ms Hobson said.
"We've got an incredible list of designers and artists who are really changing the future of fashion in Australia."
Bendigo Art Gallery Director Jessica Bridgfoot said it was a relief to see the exhibition ready to go, after spending more than a year working on it.
Ms Bridgfoot said many artists had moved mountains to get their works to the gallery from remote, often quarantined communities.
She said the gallery was proud to present the first big survey at a museum or gallery of Indigenous fashion in Australia.
It came about after Ms Bridgfoot and Ms Hobson were blown away by an exhibition of Indigenous fashion they saw at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair.
When Ms Hobson suggested the gallery run and Indigenous fashion show, Ms Bridgfoot said she jumped at the idea.
"It's really a beautiful exhibition and we're so proud to be able to really showcase First Nations culture in this way," she said.
"This exhibition ... really celebrates a movement that's Indigenous led."
Piinpi's opening comes with double significance, marking the gallery's reopening after Victoria's second round of COVID-19 restrictions.
Ms Bridgfoot said staff were hugely excited to reopen to the public.
Free exhibition Piinpi opens at the Bendigo Art Gallery from Thursday November 12. Bookings are essential. It will run until January 17, before travelling to Canberra to be shown at the National Museum of Australia.
Find out more here.
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