Bianca Spender was founded on principles of empowering and uplifting women. Through our portrait series, we delve into the world of prominent women, forging their path in the arts, politics, fashion, movement and beyond.
Liandra Gaykamangu is a Yolngu woman from North-East Arnhem Land, the Founder and Creative Director of swimwear label, Liandra Swim, a mum of 3 and the co-CEO of a 100% Aboriginal controlled not-for-profit organisation that supports Indigenous entrepreneurs in remote communities to achieve their goals.
How has your Aboriginal Australian culture impacted your creative journey, and how do you bring this into your designs?
My culture informs me with all aspects of my life and Liandra Swim is no different. With Liandra Swim it comes through most obviously with our signature prints, which I hand draw, as each print tells a story which is shared with those that buy our pieces. But I think more importantly it informs how our customer experiences Liandra Swim and by default a slice of Aboriginal culture.
I am hyper aware that Liandra Swim represents my culture and so it is crucial that I do my community justice. From our premium quality fabrics, eco-conscious impacts to creating a general positive customer experience. I always want to make sure that people’s experience of Aboriginal Australia is positive, thoughtful and meaningful.
You’re passionate about sustainability, can you talk us through what nurturing our environment means to you?
Absolutely! In my culture we have a responsibility to be caretakers of the land. This means that we have a special relationship with every single plant and animal and that no being is of greater of lesser value. This, in many ways, is the foundation of why we choose to be as eco-conscious and sustainable in our practices as possible. People might be familiar with ‘totems’ in Indigenous cultures, but it is so much more than that. We have a responsibility to care of the world around us and so when I started my label that played a huge part in the type of label we are.
Our fabrics are made from recycled PET bottles and recycled elastane. Our fabric is printed with eco-friendly dyes and our mailer bags and packaging are home compostable. We are actively trying to be as environmentally safe as possible. We purchase our swing-tags from a company that uses solar power, recycled materials and non-toxic inks, and we are in the process of replacing our hygiene stickers to a home compostable option; so we no longer will have unnecessary plastics a part of our packaging.
When I talk about sustainability, I am referring to our environment, culture and people. We need all three elements to continue to be strong and I see our designs as a way for that to happen. From the types of fabrics we use to how we share and help create positive learning opportunities.
You presented your collection at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, can you talk us through this process. What were the highlights, the challenges?
Yes AAFW was an amazing opportunity. It was a totally new experience for me, but I really enjoyed it. We were in talks for a few months beforehand around what our group-show would look like but getting everything together was a little crazy, especially as I was living in Arnhem Land at the time and was co-ordinating everything from a tiny island off the coast of the Northern Territory. To get to Sydney it was two days of travel and going from my small community into AAFW was a little wild; I went from wearing thongs and t-shirts in tropical weather to heels and peak fashion in the middle of winter.
There wasn’t one highlight, as the whole week was like going from one pinch-me-moment to another. But I will say that having Bianca come to the show and see me backstage afterwards was really special. We had had many conversations in the lead up and she was fairly aware of how nervous I was so it was really nice to have her support me and share that moment with me, as someone that totally understands that world.
What were your biggest takeaways from your mentorship with Bianca Spender?
I have really enjoyed having conversations with Bianca about the business of fashion. So often people think that fashion is this amazing and fun thing to do and you just get to dress up and go to events, and it is that some of the time, but we are also in business and having Bianca as my mentor, to share her experiences and insights with me was incredible. I really admire her business prowess and how she has created her label.
What are your favourite pieces from Bianca Spender’s Spring collection, and why?
Oh, I actually don’t think I can pick just one! Each piece I have put on takes me somewhere new. I think from a designer view, the way the Camel Silk Looking Glass Top has been designed and the way it falls on your body is just so flattering! I love to pair it with the Tan Duality Moro Skirt- it is such a classic look! But I also love the Stone Satin Ibiza Dress. It is the perfect piece for a cocktail event.
We’ve had an insight into your creative studio. What about the space influences and inspires you?
I really like bright, open spaces that have some greenery, but you can also feel the beach life coming through. My office is really a blend of me from the mats and bags woven by my aunts to the old surfboard I have in there. My office is a space that blends so many parts of me and I can look around and remember all of those parts that make up who I am and that’s what I love most about it. It feels like home and just a place of work!
3 Quick Questions
What’s your go-to dinner party dish? Or a favourite thing to cook.
I am terrible in the kitchen, but I can do a great platter! So, I usually offer to put together a fruit platter or something easy that still looks impressive.
What’s been the most challenging life lesson you've learnt?
Uhm, probably learning to say no. I am a people pleaser and want to make people happy but sometimes that comes at the detriment of my own happiness or comfort so I am getting better at just saying ‘no.’
What are you reading, watching, or listening to at the moment?
Oh, good question! I don’t really have a lot of free time – between 3 young kids and a business and full-time job, but when I do take some time out I am trying to weave a dilly bag. My sister-in-law has given me the task of finishing a small dilly-bag so I am slowly chipping away at that because I am so incredibly slow at weaving! But, I am enjoying the process.