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Benchmark agreement brings Great Sandy Desert to fashion label

Gorman was approached two years ago by Belinda Cook, manager of Mangkaja Arts Resource, about the concept.

Assisted by the Copyright Agency, the benchmark licensing agreement was negotiated and vetted at every stage by the arts centre’s board, artists and community.

“This licence is an example of best practice as we worked with both Mangkaja and Gorman to respectfully negotiate fair and reasonable licensing fees,” the agency’s chief executive Adam Suckling said.

Mangkaja Arts, in the Kimberley, is the first Indigenous group to link up with the leading fashion brand Gorman.

Mangkaja Arts, in the Kimberley, is the first Indigenous group to link up with the leading fashion brand Gorman.Credit:Janie Barrett

“We made sure terms, conditions, attributions, and acknowledgment of the artists were negotiated to protect the artist and the reproduction of the artwork.

“And crucially, we ensured the artists had approval throughout the whole process, from concept to in-store delivery, and the approach to promotion via online platforms and social media.”

Gorman has produced collections with more than 80 local and international contemporary artists, designers and creators but never with Indigenous artists.

“I’ve had always had a fascination with Indigenous artwork,” Gorman says. “I have pieces of it and I love the texture and patterns. I spent some time on the Tiwi islands which is when I first got into it. But I was hesitant because of the cultural sensitivities and worried whether I would be able to pull it off or get criticism for cultural misappropriation.”

The agreement recognises the cultural significance and authenticity of the senior Indigenous artists from Mangkaja Arts, according to Belinda Cook, manager of Mangkaja Arts Resource says.

“It highlights the commitment to fair and ethical practice,” she says. “These key areas are written into the agreement as core values for the project.”

The undisclosed financial agreement sets out payment deadlines for artists, amounts that recognise their calibre as contemporary artists recognised nationally and internationally whose works are held in private and public collections.


Participating artists are May, Sonia Kurarra and Daisy Japulija, sisters from Noonkanbah, Nada Rawlins, also from the Great Sandy Desert and Lisa Uhl, who died from kidney failure before seeing the final collection.

May had artistic control over the representation of his three artworks along with all others that feature in the collection.

The artists receive full credit on neck labels and swing tags, and in all marketing material, as well as access to stock from their own clothing ranges to share with their families.

In addition, Gorman has pledged to give training and professional development opportunities in modeling, hair and makeup and photography to Indigenous youth.

Girls from Fitzroy Crossing will model the collection in the official marketing campaign and for the runway launch at Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, Country to Couture.

May is happy with the result: “We talked about this, we worked on this for a long time before anything happened. We did this the right way. The way things happened was all alright, nothing was stolen. This was my idea and I want it to run for a long time, I want it to have an impact.”

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