What happened to Bundarra clothing?
Design as a tool for social change
The first Bundarra brand was launched in Northern Queensland in 2011 at the Laura Dance Festival. The joint venture of one Indigenous company and one non-Indigenous business to produce culturally-influenced sportswear has raised over 1.5 million dollars for Indigenous communities.
Bundarra now consists of non-Indigenous owners after a 2015 restructuring. Troy Drasdo, the co-founder of Bundarra, tells me that the brand remains committed to Indigenous artists and sharing their stories.
Troy says, “What we want is to make social changes through wearable art.” We continue to talk, and I realize this is a two-fold process.
Troy says that most Bundarra items are made by or with Indigenous artists. Luke Mallie and Holly Sanders are examples of past and continuing artists.
Troy says, “Every product that you see on our site, you’ll find the story and the artist reflecting.” We reproduce it exactly like the original so that the textures of the canvas are apparent. We do not alter the graphics, so the story remains exactly as intended. We promote the artist and the story they are telling.
For example, take the Country blouse. Shara Delaney, an artist and Quandamooka woman, is featured on the blouse. You can click on Shara to see her profile. Her work explores her relationship with family, sand, and the sea. This particular piece features a series of circles representing different First Nation groups. It shows the complex, respectful and physically- and spiritually-dependent ties between country and people.
Troy says that Bundarra still works with many artists who were there at the beginning of the brand’s journey in 2011. Every artwork and design is purchased directly by the artist. Each artist negotiates terms for licensing their work with Bundarra directly. Troy explained that the goal is to empower artists and ensure everyone is satisfied with the results.
To ensure that they are satisfied, we deal with each artist individually. Customers are often retorted by the artists saying “Hey, I wouldn’t be working with you if I wasn’t happy.”
Troy makes reference to recent criticisms of Bundarra with this statement. Recently, the business was criticized for selling Indigenous art while being owned by non-Indigenous people. Troy answers my questions.
He replied, “We’re trying to be as transparent and open as possible.” “We monitor social media every day to see the responses from our community. We’re still connected to an Aboriginal board with foundation components, even though we have separated from an organization that isn’t Indigenous.
Troy reiterates that the Bundarra team is still in close contact With The MaraWay to ensure the brand continues its meaningful support for Indigenous communities.
He says, “We give over commissions on sales at the end of each month.” “So, we are fulfilling our original role of generating commercial activities as well as lines of funding to support community growth. It’s really working.
Bundarra is still a fashion brand, despite all of the above. Its primary goal is to connect artists and consumers through clothing. We know fashion can be a powerful way to bring people together and spark conversation. This sentiment Troy echos is one that we have heard before from other brands. He says that Indigenous fashion plays a vital role in this allyship and that genuine allies are necessary to raise awareness of Indigenous issues.
Our non-Indigenous readers who are looking to show their solidarity through clothing should be aware that some works may not suit non-Indigenous people. You should confirm with the artist or brand before you shop for designs by First Nations artists. Bundarra however ensures that all designs are appropriate for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous customers.