From the country where the print originated to the artist who designed it, the Magpie Goose label is more a piece of art than it is clothing.
The social enterprise fashion label by Laura Egan and Maggie McGowan stemmed from the pair’s involvement in Aboriginal communities through their former work and study. They saw fashion as an opportunity for the world to connect with and celebrate Aboriginal people, stories and culture, while also creating economic opportunities for Aboriginal people in remote communities.
Note: Magpie Goose has since transitioned to indigenous ownership, and is now owned and operated by Brisbane-based Amanda Hayman and Troy Casey as the new Owner-Directors of this culturally rich brand.
The girls pooled their expertise and passion, and Magpie Goose was born – a social enterprise that works with remote Aboriginal communities to share their stories through art and fashion.
“We started off using fabric from four art centres that have been producing beautiful hand-printed textiles for many years (some since the 60s!) – Palngun Wurnangat in Wadeye, Tiwi Designs in Tiwi Island, Babbarra Designs in Maningrida and Injalak arts in Gunbalanaya,” Maggie says.
“We were looking for prints that were bright and bold – real statement pieces! All the designs from these art centres are incredible, telling such rich cultural stories of people, landscape, dreamings etc – so it’s very hard to choose!”
The Magpie Goose clothes are made in Australia by Sphinx – an Ethical Clothing Australia accredited manufacturing business. Located in Bankstown, Sydney, Sphinx are the longest operating clothing manufacturer in NSW.
“We have also started working with artists that don’t have art centres in their communities, or do not have access to art centres/screen printing facilities, to enable them to get their art onto fabric and made into clothes, to generate income in a new way for their art,” Laura says.
“So those fabrics are printed by Publisher textiles in Sydney.”
To reduce waste in the process, the pair say they only ever screen print as much fabric as they need for a particular run. And with the offcuts they make men’s shirts, baby rompers and pencil and makeup cases.
The clothes are a range of modestly cut A-line skirts, dresses, shorts and tops, in the wonderful bright and bold colours and prints designed by the artists in the communities.
“We try and make really simple cuts of clothing that fit a wide range of body sizes and ages, and also let the fabric be the main feature,” Maggie says.
“Our customers range from 15 to 95. Everyone who tries on Magpie Goose clothing looks so fabulous. It’s something about the bright, bold prints with really meaningful, special stories makes people feel strong, proud and powerful.”
Magpie Goose works to create social impact in many ways, including through a womens empowerment program Fashion Futures that was piloted in Katherine in January 2018.
“The pilot of Fashion Futures was a fun and ambitious personal development, education and training program that aimed to build the self-confidence, resilience and ambitions of young Aboriginal women using the platform of fashion and modelling,” Laura says.
“We are passionate about fostering inclusion within the fashion industry and seek to illuminate opportunities and pathways for Aboriginal people living in remote Australia to engage with the industry and offer relevant and engaging work experience opportunities within Magpie Goose wherever possible.”