The launch last week of fashion brand Red Ridge the Label is just the start of numerous exciting possibilities for creative industries in western Queensland, if chairman Andrew Martin has any say in it.
He is adamant that the debut collection, which shines a spotlight on the designs of two of western Queensland's acclaimed Aboriginal artists, is not the culmination of 10 years of hard work but just the start of it.
"The charter of Red Ridge is to identify and preserve cultural heritage, and the best way to preserve something is to soak it in dollars," he said.
"We want local people to design outfits, cut them up, sew them up, and pack them up.
"This time it's Diamantina, the next time it could be Bulloo Bulldust or Barcoo Blankets.
"We don't want to be providing employment for Waverley Woollen Mills - we want to provide employment for us."
The debut collection highlights artwork from Wangkangurru and Yarluyandi women Aulpunda 'Jean' Barr-Crombie and Anpanuwa 'Joyce' Crombie from Birdsville.
The artists, also known as Two Sisters Talking, bring the culture of their country alive in their art, painting a deep love of the country from river to desert.
Red Ridge the Label's first collection, Diamantina, is named after the region where the artists grew up and features two compelling silk prints interpreted in natural fibre garments.
Children's Playground, by Jean, depicts the gathering place for children when older generations get together to have ceremonies, while Pathways and Camps, Joyce's creation, passes on spiritual knowledge gained by travelling on pathways to camps.
Linen and silk
Coordinating plain linens compliment the silk print pieces while a range of accessories and handbags complete the collection.
Speaking to the significance of the collection, Ms Crombie said it was a good opportunity for people to see where they came from.
"All of our artwork is based around country and Birdsville, and how the people lived years ago from what our mother taught us. We are so passionate about our country," she said.
"Mum and Dad shared the stories and this is our way of teaching the younger generation. They learn from us. Our language is our art," Ms Barr-Crombie added.
"To have these stories on different materials, and even a catwalk, means so much to us. We are telling our stories through our artwork and these dresses - that is a first for us. If we don't pass our culture on to our young ones, we will lose it."
Local garment and accessory making priority
To assist in delivering the Diamantinacollection, Red Ridge the Label engaged experienced Brisbane designer Laura Gangemito design the range of garments that were then constructed by makers connected with Red Ridge.
Manager Louise Campbell said the goal for the label was to involve artists from different regions within the 16 shires the arts organisation covers, from Mount Isa to Thargomindah, and east, to contribute to a new collection.
"We're passionate about ensuring authenticity throughout all areas of the label, which includes having garments and accessories made locally," she said.
Mr Martin, who is also the mayor of the Blackall-Tambo Regional Council, was just as adamant on the point, saying they were trying to get as much done in the west as possible.
"I wouldn't rule a factory out in the future," he said. "If you think small, you'll be small."
Western Queensland already has the example of Tambo Teddies as a successful guide of getting critical mass and expanding to Toowoomba for its manufacture.
"Ideas for the future of the label have got to come from the people," Mr Martin said. "Many seeds are being sown and many projects mooted."
Red Ridge the Label's exclusive Diamantinacollection is available online from late August, with prices ranging from $350-$450.