or designer Lyn-al Young, fashion isn’t just fashion. It’s art. But we’re not talking art that’s untouchable: Young’s one- off, bespoke silk pieces are simply a portable, tactile – and beautiful – celebration of womanhood itself.
“Ever since I was young, I have felt the pressure to look or act a certain way to [meet] different expectations in society, the media, and the fashion industry. And since I was young I’ve tried to challenge it,” the 23-year-old tells Stellar. “I want women who wear my clothing to feel like they can celebrate their own story. They can feel empowered and they can feel Walumarra Nungurra, which means they feel safe and at peace. That’s important today. Women – and men – are feeling like they have to be something the world is telling them they need to be, and it’s causing a lot of issues.”
The designer, whose lineage includes the Gunnai, Wiradjuri, Gunditjmara and Yorta Yorta Aboriginal peoples, says every piece she creates is representative of her four ancestral lands. And she describes the markings she paints into her clothing as “traditional shields” there to protect the women who wear it. But more simply, she says with a laugh, “I just want women to feel good in it.”
Women like David Jones ambassador Jessica Gomes, who joins Young at a photo shoot for Stellar to model one of
her creations. “I love the sentiment and meaning behind all of Lyn-al’s garments to celebrate her Indigenous Australian culture and country,” Gomes tells Stellar. “It’s amazing to be able to wear an original, one-off piece of art, which has its own unique story behind it.”
Young’s own unique story starts with her name, which is an amalgamation of her grandmother Lynette’s and greatgrandmother Alice’s names – they all even share the same birthday. “My name is my connection to [them] and to my story and culture. Since I was a child, I’ve been taught to know where you come from,” she says. “When I was younger people would be like, ‘Oh, what an interesting name,’ and I would feel a bit uncomfortable, but the more I know about my name, the importance of it and my connection to my nans, I absolutely love it.”
Young was born in Adelaide, but moved to Melbourne as a child. With parents who are artists and entrepreneurs themselves, she acknowledges creativity already ran in her blood. “I’ve been around design my whole life. I used to always play dress-ups,” she says. “I would dream of going to big events with red carpets.”
She began designing when she was eight, was making handbags out of “old things” by age 10, and two years later was incorporating fabric and beads and selling her wares at Aboriginal markets. She planned on going to university after high school, but her business acumen soon found her setting up her own brand instead.
“I never thought I would work for someone else,” she says.“i spoke to my parents and they said, ‘Look, you’ve got the gift and you’ve got our support – set up the business.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I’ll do it!’ The biggest challenge for me has probably been self-belief, so the support of my family has been incredible.”
In July this year, Young was announced as David Jones’s Emerging Designer, a newly created role to support talent in the early phases of their fashion careers. The announcement coincided with NAIDOC Week, which celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Young’s collection featured for a limited time in David Jones’s flagship Sydney and Melbourne stores.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” she says. “When I was still in high school my mum and I would go in [to David Jones] and one year she said, ‘Let’s pick out a scarf and make it a tradition to buy one every year.’ Now to see my own scarves in there… it’s such an honour.”
Now Young is again partnering with the retailer to create a one- off piece for the prestigious National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Gala on December 1, for which David Jones is a principal partner. This creation, in a shoot for
You had a very bohemian childhood and didn’t even have a TV. What were you doing while most people your age were watching Dawson’s Creek? I spent a lot of time making up crazy, involved games and plays with my friends. It was definitely good for the imagination, although now I can’t imagine life without a phone or television. Actually, we’re just assuming you’ve even heard of Dawson’s Creek. But is there a hole where your teen popculture knowledge should be? I missed a lot of stuff that my friends were super into – like the Spice Girls. But I didn’t miss Britney Spears. Nope. Loved Britney. Your modelling career almost happened by accident. What was it like seeing yourself on a newsstand for the first time? It’s just surreal. You’re like, “OK, that’s me… whoa.” It was five years ago and you were only 22, but you’re still asked about your role in the controversial video for Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’. Is that frustrating? I’ve made peace with it, especially because there are ideas I strongly believe in – like women embracing their sexuality and having fun with it – that ‘Blurred Lines’ kinda fits into. If you’d known the impact the video would have, would you have turned down the role? No, I would make the same decision. Every celebrity is a target of trolling, especially women. How do you not let it influence the way you live your life? I’ve learnt to separate social media comments and trolls from real life. And I don’t let the validating, flattering comments impress on me too much, which makes it easier to [ignore] the negative ones as well. Last month you were arrested in Washington, D.C. while protesting the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. Were you surprised by the attention that received? I was. I knew being there would be important and I knew some people would find it controversial, but I never expected anyone to talk about why I wasn’t wearing a bra under my tank top. It was 32 degrees, I was marching through D.C. in jeans; my outfit seemed completely normal to me. And I was there making a political point. Why would people focus on what I was wearing? On a happier note, you got married in February to actor-producer Sebastian Bear-mcclard. What are your abiding memories from that day? Nerves and love, and so much excitement about building a life together. You’re also the face of Paco Rabanne Pure XS. Do you remember the very first fragrance you bought? DKNY’S Be Delicious, when I was probably 15. I actually remember loving the ad – and that’s why I wanted it so badly. Crazy to think I’m now the woman in a perfume ad. You were recently in Australia for the GQ Men of the Year Awards, where you were awarded GQ International Woman of the Year. Long-haul flight notwithstanding, were you excited to come here? So excited. My best friend lives in Sydney, and because Australia has a lot of similarities to southern California, where I grew up, I already felt a huge connection.
And it it’s s summ summer. Woo!