Design Tasmania
Corner of Brisbane and Tamar streets
Launceston, 7250
+61 3 6331 5506

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Designer Michelle Maynard
Model Ziggy Maynard
Photo by Kishka Jensen
Makeup Sophie McDermott


Silk Stockings at the Babel Island Store

15 October – 3 December 2023

Throughout the 20th century Tasmanian Aboriginal island family clans lived through an intensely racist and oppressive time. Living on the Bass Strait islands, segregation, a controlled reserve regime, vigilante style violence, complete denial of rights, forced assimilation and white Australia policy were the reality of people’s lives.

The judgement of our people was cruel and brutal.

Whilst our people lived this time of degradation, inequality, bullying and racial prejudice, they cultivated and maintained their sense of identity. We thrived in our own ways; proud, dignified, making joy in community life and staying rooted in our cultural ways of love for community and country.

Early in 2023, artists and designers Michelle Maynard, Lillian Wheatley, and Takira Simon-Brown, began a design development under the mentorship and creative guidance of Gunditjmara and Torres Strait Islander artist Lisa Waup, Melbourne based fashion designer Ingrid Verner of renowned collaboration Lisa Waup X Verner, and Michelle Boyde, Artistic Director of Design Tasmania. As the trio came together with mentors across a series of development workshops, stories and memory of family and lineages that intertwined surfaced. What naturally emerged was a deep reflection and exploration of shared Bass Strait island roots.

Silk Stockings at the Babel Island Store is the culmination of the design development project that brought the three artists and designers together. Through the creation of three micro fashion collections, a time that is not often spoken of is given voice and playfully and endearingly acknowledged. The collections feature printed fabrics, accessories, upcycled, regenerated, or renewably sourced fabrics, and garment designs depicting story, place and memory.

This exhibition displays the intergenerational learning and relationships of First Nations people featuring direct family members as Maynard, Wheatley and Simon-Brown embraced their community in sharing in this celebration of identity and family, and ultimately offers opportunities for empowerment.

Silk Stockings is the first time Tasmanian First Nations fashion and textile design has been showcased in a dedicated exhibition. It is an acknowledgement and honouring of our families, our Elders, our people, and the hardships they endured. It is a celebration of the deep love of our island country and kin and an assertion of pride and dignity. It celebrates the natural style of our people, the first designers.

A partnership between Design Tasmania and Walantanalinany Palingina, the first of its kind, the project aims to nurture and promote First Nations design and making in traditional and contemporary contexts.

Michelle Maynard

Michelle Maynard is a contemporary Tasmanian First Nations designer and artist. Her creative practice moves across digital design, print, collage, installation, creative production, fashion and textiles.

Through her work, she accentuates visual acknowledgement, memory in place and untold story. Empowering the memory of her people and breaking down false and oppressive perceptions inspires her approach.

Michelle often uses the bright colours of country to evoke feeling that mirrors the beauty, vibrancy and playfulness of First Nations people.

Passionate about advocating for her people and country through art and design, Michelle is powerfully motivated from the core of her family and their history on the Cape Barren Island Reserve. Sustainable practice, maintaining cultural responsibility and respectful care and consideration for country and people, are central to her practice.

Takira Simon-Brown

Takira Simon-Brown is a Niyanta of Chief Mannalargenna of the Plangermairreenner Nation (Ben Lomond) and a luna of Paredareme country where the Moonmairemenner community once resided.

Takira's art practice includes music, film and performance, painting and printmaking. She comes from a strong line of Aboriginal makers - her grandmother and mother, both shell stringers, have necklaces in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery collection, and her family includes other arts practitioners and educators.

Lillian Wheatley - artist

Lillian is a saltwater woman (muka luna) from the Trawlwoolway nation, northeast Tasmania. She is a senior cultural practitioner, knowledge keeper, artist/designer and respected Elder in her community.

Lillian’s work is inspired by her country and life growing up on an island in the Bass Strait. This was the very island her ancestors were subjected to enforced displacement from their homelands. They were forbidden to practice their cultural ways, as attempted genocide of her ancestors continued.

Today, Lillian’s people are continuing the cultural practices that were taken from her old people. Lillian’s life growing up on an island has instilled a deep respect for country, for her people's livelihoods depending on the tide, seasons, moon, wind, just as the original custodians of this land did. As a young child Lillian would gather cuttlefish, kelp, shells, driftwood - treasures washed up from the sea, and topaz washed down from the mountains. This childhood pastime grew into a way of life for her.

The influences of her cultural upbringing inspire her to create her pieces. Today when she gathers traditional materials to create her work, she is honouring her people, culture, and customs by continuing the thriving, living ancient practices. Her connection and love of her island home and ancestral lands resonate in the exquisite pieces she creates both contemporary and traditional. 

A model wearing a deep teal gown with dark wrap

Photo by Ness Vanderburgh, Design by Michelle Maynard

Four models wearing printed garments designed by Takira Simon-Brown

Photo by Ness Vanderburgh, Design by Takira Simon-Brown

A model wearing a full length white dress and white boots

Photo by Ness Vanderburgh, Design by Lillian Wheatley

Audience members at the launch

Photo by Ness Vanderburgh

Megan Perkins and Sarah Blacklock enjoying a drink at the launch

Photo by Ness Vanderburgh

Michelle Boyde and Georgie Gow chat at the launch

Photo by Ness Vanderburgh

The model wears a teal gown with a lighter teal coat

Photo by Ness Vanderburgh, Design by Michelle Maynard

The model wears a black and white tunic

Photo by Ness Vanderburgh, Design by Lillian Wheatley

A model wearing a red ochre and orange print is hugged by an audience member

Photo by Ness Vanderburgh, Design by Takira Simon-Brown

Silk Stockings Press

We were delighted to have our Silk Stockings exhibition featured in two articles in the Koori Mail:

Funding Bodies

Design Tasmania is assisted through Arts Tasmania by the Minister for the Arts, by the Australian Government through Creative Australia, its arts funding and advisory body and the Culture, Heritage and Arts Regional Tourism (CHART) program.

Sponsors: Creative Australia | Tasmanian Government