Australian Aboriginal design label ‘Kirrikin’ has made a name for itself as a high-quality producer of Koori resort wear, scarves, neck ties and jewellery.
Founded in 2014 by Amanda Healy, a Wonnarua woman from SE Australia, Kirrikin will make its debut in New Zealand at the 2018 Pacific Fusion Fashion Show next month.
Healy started Kirrikin after a successful 35-year career in the mining industry and now enjoys working with indigenous peoples as a social entrepreneur. Her company shares its profits with the artists it collaborates with including Francine Kickett, Emma Kerslake, Kaye Lorraine White, Kerry Madawyn McCarthy, Helena Geiger, Shane Hansen and Walala Tjapltjarri. Healy also uses Kirrikin’s excess profits to run programs with Aboriginal women in prison.
“I mentor Aboriginal people who‘d like to get into business and, in the future, I want to continue helping the community in any way I can,” she says.
In 2015 Healy sold her company Maxx in a multimillion dollar deal and often reflects on the business skills she acquired in mining.
“I did need to develop some resilience, though I found that most people respond well to someone with a genuine desire to learn,” says Healy. “I think men are more likely to tell it like it is, so I now do that myself to some extent. And I also think I’ve become more ambitious and driven to compete with my male colleagues.”
Healy tells indigenous women who’d like to start theirown business to hold firm to their dream.
“It’s hard work but it’s worth it, particularly if it allows you to work in your own time and with your own resources,” she says. “For me, the most important aspect of having my own business was being able to watch my son grow up and gain his own sense of self. I’ve rarely missed a sporting event or an important milestone and that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d been working for someone else.”
Healy’s transition from mining to fashion came about after her frustration at not being able to find wearable indigenous products.
“Being an Aboriginal woman in business and working in such a remote and male dominated area, I found that I was wandering around doing these presentations and talking to people but…there wasn’t anything available for nice, quality Aboriginal print scarves,” she says.
Healy decided to invest $250,000 dollars into her new Perth-based venture, digitally printing Indigenous artworks onto fabrics and Kirrikin was born.
Kirrikin digitally prints authentic Aboriginal art onto luxury fabrics such as cashmere, silk, and more recently viscose (re-cycled wood pulp) and ‘vita’ lycra (re-cycled plastic bottles). It draws upon the stories of the oldest recorded culture on earth and blends this ancient history with current trends to create a true Australian label that has a strong social conscience.