Tell us about Clothing The Gap?
We started Clothing The Gap, an Aboriginal-owned and -led social enterprise, in 2018 with 100 per cent of our profits going towards Aboriginal health and education programs. Our team consists of four Aboriginal and non-indigenous women living in Melbourne.
Initially we produced merchandise as an incentive to motivate Aboriginal people to come to the health promotion programs we run through Spark Health. The brand grew organically and became its own independent social enterprise, selling to and engaging a wider community.
We saw the opportunity to engage with a non-indigenous audience to share content encouraging more people to lean in and learn about Aboriginal culture and social issues through fashion. Through this we have been using fashion as the vehicle to make an impact and create conversations in unique ways.
Have you noticed an increase in support, sales and awareness since the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests happened overseas?
We have had a huge influx of support over the past few weeks. The BLM movement and issues the movement stands for are what we experience and fight for every day. And although the influx of people wanting to support has been great, it’s also been an overwhelming and emotional time for us.
Buying a t-shirt is only the start; that alone isn’t enough to make change. We need to wear these t-shirts, start conversations and keep having these conversations long into the future. We also need to continue our learning journey so we can have a real impact.
We hope our resources and content have been beneficial and educational to people during this time, but that people use this to start contributing meaningfully to the cause and dismantling the systems of oppression that exist in Australia.
You’ve collaborated with different t-shirt designers. Where do you find these artists?
We think transparency is important and it is something we are very proud of at Clothing The Gap. It is important to us that we align our brand to other people or brands who share the same core values as us.
Carla Scotto, a non-indigenous environmental activist and illustrator, has been someone we aligned ourselves with early on. She hit us up after the Free the Flag campaign started and kindly donated her Always Was design to us to replace the Aboriginal flag until it is free to use again.
Carla states that “it was her way of paying the rent and giving back”. Carla’s permission to use this design allowed us to continue to raise awareness and educate people through the use of a t-shirt.
Another brand we have aligned ourselves with is HoMie, a Melbourne-based social enterprise contributing 100 per cent of its profits to youth experiencing hardship and/or homelessness. We designed a Free the Flag bucket hat together and the profits from this product went back to the Free The Flag campaign. We chose to align ourselves with HoMie because we believe our values and purpose align. HoMie felt the urgency to give back and support Aboriginal culture and issues.
These brands and artists are a perfect example of how to use your platform and skills to give back to a cause genuinely; we want to always make sure the relationship and purpose are real and align with our values before we work together.
What are your hopes for people wearing your t-shirts?
We hope that people who wear a Clothing The Gap t-shirt feel connected to a brand that stands for something and unites people through shared values. We hope that people take the opportunity and dive deeper, learn more, listen to BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of colour) voices and then continue having these conversations in their own circle. We also hope that the t-shirt is just the beginning of someone’s journey in walking alongside the Aboriginal community and doing the work that this will require of them.
100 per cent of your profits go to furthering Aboriginal health and education. Please tell us more about this.
The profits from Clothing The Gap have always supported the grassroots Aboriginal health and promotion programs our team of health promotion professionals deliver at Spark Health. As our brand has expanded and the platform for education increased, our opportunity to invest in a variety of impact projects has grown. Our key purpose is to add years to Aboriginal people’s lives and along with our health education programs we will do that by advocating, motivating, educating and celebrating bla(c)k excellence and culture.
In what way does your clothing reflect the stories from your mob or culture?
We use fashion as a way to celebrate contemporary Aboriginal culture. Our designs reflect our pride, our identity and the issues that are important to us. We draw inspiration from celebrating the bla(c)k excellence that surrounds us every day.
When will your next collection happen?
A new campaign and collection are in the works and we will have a new drop-in time for spring. We are absolutely in love with our Always Was, Always Will Be rugby jumper. We can’t wait see these on the streets!
What more can our readers do to support Clothing The Gap?
Keep learning, keep engaging with content regularly, keep educating and make Aboriginal culture a priority.
How can we all be an ally for Aboriginal Australians, People of Colour and First Nations people?
- Know your place and space.
- This movement is not yours to lead in. Instead it’s yours to listen to and learn about and add momentum to in a genuine way.
- Offer your skills and resources to BIPOC people, movements and brands.
- Continue to elevate BIPOC voices.
- Commit to continual support of BIPOC people, issues and platforms long after the BLM has fallen off popular media channels.
For more, visit clothingthegap.com.au