Arkie Barton is a formidable fresh-face on the Brisbane design scene and undoubtedly a name to remember. The designs of her namesake label Arkie, enthused by inspirations from her Indigenous Australian heritage have already flourished runways of Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival and earlier this year at the National Reconciliation Week in West Africa. Most recently, you could find Arkie running rainbow illustration workshops to spearhead the dreamy Yayoi Kusama exhibition at GOMA. With a new collection in the works, we had a quick chat with Arkie about all things that inspire her multi-hued design aesthetic! From the cultural expression she has so strikingly emulated through fashion to trends she’s loving and loathing AND of course, how to rock a bold piece from her collection this summer…
Arkie! You’re artwork and prints are phenomenal. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got your start in the industry and what made you want to pursue a career in fashion?
I started from an early age with a creative interest, painting from the age of 4 and holding many solo exhibitions throughout my youth. From there, I went to a creatively driven high school that really opened up my interest in fashion and art as creative forms that don’t necessarily need to be mutually exclusive.
Tell us a little bit about your label! Would you say there exists an ‘Arkie woman’ and if so, how would you describe her?
I believe that there’s a part of “Arkie” for every modern woman, flattering, on-trend silhouettes and bright colours and patterns. I believe that my clothes and work is for the young woman that wants to express herself through colour and vibrancy and is interested in engaging in contemporary Indigenous Australia and our Indigenous Culture.
It’s very exciting to see an Australian designer drawing inspiration from Indigenous culture. We’ve heard it informs a big part of your design aesthetic. Can you tell us a bit about why this is important to you?
My interest in Indigenous Culture is through my own personal heritage, my family being from the Kalkadunga people, hailing from Mt Isa. Throughout my childhood and growing up, contemporary Indigenous Australian Art greatly informed my creative practice. I was particularly drawn by the Indigenous Art of the Utopian Women – the likes of Emily Kngwarreye and Sally Gabori present a part of Indigenous Australia that many may not associate with the classic souvenir shop Aboriginal artwork.
With desert dreaming – inspired by the colours of our Australian deserts and water dreaming – inspired by the flow and colours of our waterways. Each print most always reflects something that you can see in our Australian landscape.
We know your talent has taken you overseas this year and in the past – that’s so exciting! Tell us a little bit about the travel opportunities you’ve had with Arkie and how that has inspired or developed parts of your business?
This year has been a particularly exciting one, with travels overseas to West African countries, Ghana and Sierra Leone to support the Australian High Commission of Ghana in their National Reconciliation Week celebrations. It was an incredible experience and very enlightening in regards to Indigenous textiles and similarities around the world with colour and pattern.
In terms of the design process, can you share with us a particular piece you’ve created that has been inspired by a motif, time or place, artwork, or memory and describe how this piece came to be – from design through to textile development and production?
My prints are often inspired by elements in nature, for example, my latest collection, Mirage. With desert dreaming, inspired by the colours of our Australian deserts and water dreaming – inspired by the flow and colours of our waterways. Each print most always reflects something that you can see in our Australian landscape.
We LOVE that colour is a distinguishing factor of your design aesthetic! How do you go about selecting a colour to work with?
I will always start with a colour palette inspired by the concept that I am depicting. I love working with colours of the whole rainbow and usually try to incorporate every colour into each collection through a variety of prints.
What is your all-time favourite piece and how do you wear it?
My all-time favourite piece is the water dreaming silk cowl neck maxi – I love wearing this piece, as you can dress it up with a pair of sparkly heels and some jewels. Or dress it down in a chunky black belt and some cowgirl boots.
I always feel that if you are nervous about putting on a bold piece – you’re better to strip it back and let the piece speak for itself.
Are more accessories on the cards for Arkie the Label? You have a knack for designing a killer accessory – from sequined chokers, bedazzled shoes, glittered boots and that amazing butterfly headpiece…
I love designing accessories – there’s something really fun about the creation of them, and always feel as though they are a perfect accessory to any outfit, especially my garments and prints! They will always continue to be a part of each collection that I release!
Layering and styling bold colours and prints can sometimes be intimidating! Do you have any tips on how to rock a bold piece?
I always feel that if you are nervous about putting on a bold piece – you’re better to strip it back and let the piece speak for itself. Pair it back with black boots or a black jacket over the top to create some contrast.
Where can our readers go to get their hands on some of your clothes and artwork?
At this stage, the best place is my online store at arkiethelabel.com!
Stay tuned via my Instagram and Facebook as we will have some exciting stockist and collection news over the next year. 😉
You’ve had such a big year! Do you have any upcoming plans for the label that you can share?
I will have an exhibition and new collection upcoming in the next year! I’m hoping that I can push my artistic practice as well as my fashion design and collections!
With all the success you’ve had with your label so far, do you have any parting advice for creatives who have a passion for design thinking of following a similar path?
Definitely just keep going! Almost always creatives are incredibly passionate about their work and it can get you down if things are going slow. But when things start to pick up and you can see people enjoying your work, there truly is nothing more valuable or exciting!
Before you go! A few fun Qs! Who is a VIP you’d love to dress in your clothes?
Samantha Harris or Jessica Mauboy!! Would love to see some incredible Indigenous GirlBoss’s killing it in my clothes.
What is your ultimate fashion staple?
Any trends you’re loving or loathing right now?
I am absolutely loving flares, I know they’ve been around for a few seasons but you seriously cannot go wrong with a pair of funky pants! Nothing I’m loathing that I’ve seen on the street but those platform crocs from Balenciaga surely were something to behold….
Styling and Creative Direction: Arkie Barton