Rebecca Rickard, a Ballardong, Whadjuk woman from the Nyungar Nation combined her passion for op shopping with her drive to connect people to Aboriginal culture through artwork to create Deadly Denim.
Deadly Denim is a sustainable, upcycled Indigenous fashion label. It all started with recycled jackets, but they now also produce recycled denim skirts, dresses, vests, short sleeve shirts and tote bags, all showcasing Indigenous artists and their designs.
“I have been a mad op shopper since I was around 15 years old, that is when I fell in love with hunting for anything that had ’70’s textiles in its design,” Rebecca says.
“Then in 2018 I noticed the trend of reworking denim jackets and I had the idea of using the concept to showcase Australian First Nation textile designs. It has been amazing being able to show off individual designs from various remote Aboriginal art centres.”
Up until last month, when it had an influx of orders, all of the sewing was done by Rebecca in her backyard studio in Perth, Western Australia.
“Recently, Deadly Denim saw a high volume in orders and I couldn’t keep up with the demand. I made the decision to employ the services of my mum and a local label ILKA, who now manufacture in the back of its retail shop,” Rebecca says.
“We also have a little multipurpose 10-foot vintage caravan that we use as a mobile sewing room, pop-up shop and mobile jacket customisation bar. Keeping the production here in Perth and supporting locals is very important to me.”
In line with this, Rebecca has kept her production in Australia and has focused on working and collaborating with a range of Aboriginal artists.
“When I first started out, I was using amazing screen printed textiles from various remote Aboriginal communities. I purchased these directly online and from Publisher Textiles, a commercial printing house in Sydney. Now, I have added some digitally printed designs, which have been developed with collaborating artists, which has been a dream. These more recent designs have been printed with Next State and Digital Fabrics, both Australian businesses.”
“We sew into recycled clothing and ensure all of our scraps are used, some are worked into collars and pockets and others are donated to a sewing project at Boronia Pre-Release Centre for Women, where a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women learn to sew and create amazing storybook animals for a children’s program,” Rebecca says.
“We also receive donations from Publisher Textiles of offcuts from its fashion collaboration with Babbarra Women’s Centre in Arnhem Land. We recently donated some of these offcuts to create over 150 of our Deadly Denim bags for women in local women’s hospitals.
“Customising people’s own jackets, in our workshop setting, is another service we offer to minimise wastage. This allows people to come along and make their own Deadly Denim jacket with a garment they already own and this has been really popular. They bring their existing pieces, we provide our beautiful textiles and together we construct their custom jackets. We’ve had bookings from women’s refugees, school groups, local shires, private groups, community groups and recently Bunker Bay Resort Western Australia, where it was really well received.”
Sharing Indigenous culture is at the heart of Deadly Denim and they collaborate with other local businesses to do so.
“We have a joint workshop with Marissa Verma, from Bindi Bindi Dreaming, where the group cooks and learns about using native herbs and spices. It has been great to see how well received these have been and I love being part of teaching others about my culture.”
While its social media insights would tell you the target market is 25-35 year old females, Rebecca doesn’t agree and says that Deadly Denim jackets don’t discriminate.
“I don’t work like that. I think the target audience is everyone. I have all genders and ages buying, making and wearing Deadly Denim,” Rebecca says.
“I make and market them with no target audience in mind. And one thing I do love in particular is that people who don’t normally buy or wear recycled pieces don’t hesitate to wear and purchase Deadly Denim garments.
“What started off as a passion project has now blossomed into a thriving business that blends all things we love into one – our culture, sustainable fashion and giving back to the community.
“Deadly Denim is a business with a social impact, aiming to be as sustainable as possible. Fashion comes with an environmental impact, with the fashion industry identified as the second largest polluter in the world, just after the oil industry, with the environmental damage increasing as the industry grows. We are doing our part to decrease this impact as much as possible.”