Introducing A Strategy To Guide Us

In the spirit of reconciliation the ICONIC acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

A note from our CEO

It is an honour to present THE ICONIC’s inaugural Indigenous Engagement Strategy, our north star when working with First Nations peoples. This strategy will guide us on our journey to dream big and bring on the future of shopping, one that is inclusive and embraces First Nations people, knowledge and cultures. 

We acknowledge that we are all learning, all the time, and that there are things we all need to develop and improve upon. However, we also believe that this should not stop us from being active, forming partnerships, making bold decisions and actively supporting movements and initiatives that will lead to a more inclusive Australia. We are growing our approach from always wanting to be right to always needing to be respectful. but to continue to grow and action them, in ways that drive social change and strengthen our business.

THE ICONIC as an organisation, has been guided by many First Nations partners, communities and peoples and we have also been able to reflect on where we, as an organisation, can contribute knowledge, expertise and influence. We have made formal commitments, delivering our first Reflect RAP and now developing our next RAP, an INNOVATE RAP. I am excited that this strategy will be overarching, reflective of our business goals and where we want THE ICONIC to be in the future.

Let’s build the future vision together.

Erica Berchtold,

Our Vision

We have a vision for an Australia that is fiercely proud of its First Nations histories and cultures, one that is unafraid to confront and engage in difficult conversations and one that is on a continual pathway of growing together and learning from each other. 

As it relates to our industry, we aspire for a fashion and retail industry that puts First Nations design and business principles at the heart of how we define ourselves. We have a vision for an industry that moves beyond inclusivity, to one that affirms First Nations leadership, as a way to explore new business models, design excellence and sustainable and ethical practice. 

Our VisionOur Vision

This strategy is a principle-led guide to start considering First Nations peoples and brands at THE ICONIC. The strategy has been designed to encourage all to challenge our biases and perceptions, to embrace a new way of thinking as it relates to First Nations inclusion The strategy is not prescriptive, nor is it exhaustive. It is a playbook, and the principles can have touch points across all our business practices and even some in our personal lives.

Our four core principles

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Two-Way Learning

Defining how we work together.

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Building a future vision through community.

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Creating a powerful and shared impact.

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Celebrating to unite and educate.

Learn more

‘two-way’ teaching and learning involves a partner relationship between two cultures that have much to learn from each other. It takes place in a neutral, negotiated space in which neither culture presumes superiority or dominance. 

("Two way teaching and learning key to educational equity",2011)

This principle, the first of four, is core to defining how we will work ‘with’ First Nations peoples. A First Nations concept of interaction and relationship-building is best explained in Tyson Yunkaporta’s book, ‘Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World’ where he recites the process as explained to him by Mumma Doris Shillingsworth, an Elder – ‘Indigenous ways of valuing, ways of being, ways of knowing and ways of doing can be referred to in a sequence: Respect, Connect, Reflect and Direct.

  1. The first step of Respect is aligned with values, of introductions, setting boundaries. This is the work of your spirit, your gut.
  2. The second step, Connect, is about building strong relationships and exchanges that are equal for all who are involved. Your way of being is your way of relating. This is the work of your heart.
  3. The third step, Reflect, is thinking – as part of a group collectively creating a shared body of knowledge to inform what you will do.  This is the work of the head.
  4. The final step, Direct, is about acting on the shared knowledge and these are in ways that are negotiated by all. This is the work of the hands. (Yunkaporta, 2019)

This process above is commonly reversed, with B2B/B2C relationships being ‘transactional’ by nature. We recognise working with First Nations peoples is different to general ‘BAU’ practices and starts with an open mind, to listen, reflect and respond accordingly. 

As we continue to mature as the home of Australian online fashion, it comes with a responsibility to the sector and community. We challenge ourselves and the industry to bring on the future of shopping. To do this, we recognise ‘People are our greatest asset’ and we explore and draw from the diverse range of knowledge and experiences from all ICONITES, ensuring diversity of thought, consideration and representation is at the forefront of decision-making. 

Working with First Nations peoples is a key priority at THE ICONIC, we have so much to learn from the oldest living culture on earth. We can all embrace the principle of Two-Way Learning by taking on the below actions.


  1. Challenge our BAU practices. Are they inclusive of First Nations peoples? Are First Nations peoples benefitting from this?
  2. Enable a learning culture. Can I learn more about First Nations peoples? What knowledge can I share with First Nations peoples?
  3. Embrace the journey. Can we ensure knowledge-sharing is ongoing? Are ICONITES enabled to continue their learning?

Respect, Connect, Reflect and Direct

‘The ‘co’ in co-design stands for community or conversation. It’s about bringing together people and professionals to jointly make decisions, informed by each other's expertise. It is not a community only activity or a professional only activity. 

("Unpacking co-design", 2019)

This builds on from the principle of two-way learning as true co-design cannot be achieved without the respect and equal ‘power’ to influence decision-making. It is common for co-design to be misunderstood for collaboration or partnership type models, which are not bad things; co-design can often lead to collaboration and/or partnerships!

As we aim to build the future vision together, this implies that our future is not dictated internally, but ultimately needs to include external input and validation. A key opportunity is to enable inclusion of the First Nations Fashion industry to influence this vision, to hear their aspirations and understand how we can use our platform to ultimately create a shared vision.

Co-design starts with a shared goal, an open mind and a safe space for all to share. 


  1. Create space for change. Are our ways of working enabling diversity of thought? Have we consulted with First Nations peoples in this work?
  2. First Nations influence. Is there an avenue for First Nations people to influence decisions at THE ICONIC? Are there other First Nations considerations we do not know about?
  3. Be innovative. What does an inclusive Australia look like and how can we support that future? What are First Nations peoples aspirations and how are we making these a reality?

To build the future vision together

‘Growing Australia's First Nations businesses is a viable pathway to create employment and increase the economic participation of First Nations peoples.

("Strategic Partnerships with First Nations Peoples (First Nations Partnerships)", 2020)

To start a partnership, starts with engagement and “engagement requires a relationship built on trust and integrity: it is a sustained relationship between groups of people working towards shared goals; on the spectrum of engagement, a high level of participation works better than lower levels (such as consultation) where problems are complex” (Hunt, 2013). 

To develop successful partnerships, requires:

  • an appreciation of—and the cultural competency to respond to—Indigenous history, cultures and contemporary social dynamics and to the diversity of Indigenous communities; valuing the cultural skills and knowledge of community organisations and Indigenous people
  • provides Indigenous agency and decision making, a deliberative and negotiated process, not just information giving or consultation, and it starts early in the program or project development.
  • based on Indigenous aspirations and priorities, within an Indigenous framework, process, context and time frame; that is, it is an Indigenous-driven process with an Organisation as facilitator/enabler within a framework of Indigenous self determination (Hunt, 2013).

Partnerships are a key outcome for THE ICONIC. Partnerships, when led with First Nations peoples and Organisations are powerful and create shared impact. They build on from listening, learning and co-designing to achieve a shared goal and build the future vision together. 

We can build partnerships over time, with a mutual ability to share knowledge and learnings. A key opportunity is to leverage the FNFD partnership and incubator model to test how it develops over time. This is a strong platform for FNFD and THE ICONIC to grow together, learn and unlearn, removing barriers and creating more opportunities. Through the experience, THE ICONIC can take the learnings into developing future partnerships.

Partnerships start with a shared goal and can evolve over time. To begin a partnership, you can start by considering the actions below:


  1. Increase benefits to First Nations peoples. How do First Nations peoples currently benefit? What can we do to increase the benefit to First Nations peoples?
  2. Be a platform for First Nations fashion. What can we do to increase First Nations brands currently? How can we make it easier for First Nations brands to join THE ICONIC?
  3. Grow First Nations Fashion. What is the state of First Nations fashion? How can we support the First Nations fashion sector?

To become leaders in First Nations partnerships

‘Cultural celebrations foster respect and open-mindedness for other cultures. Celebrating our differences, as well as our common interests, helps unite and educate us.

First Nations Fashion has existed for thousands of years, yet the industry has only recently been celebrated on the ‘big stage’, at Australian and Melbourne Fashion Weeks. First Nations fashion has so much to offer the Australian and global community on design, ethical sourcing and cultural expression. We at THE ICONIC need to continue to celebrate the First Nations fashion industry.

We embrace ‘style in all we do’ and we want to celebrate the journey working with First Nations peoples, brands and Organisations. By pausing to reflect on the journey, the process and the learnings, gives time to consider the effect starting with how First Nations people have been able to change the way we work.

We are not afraid to stand out, to challenge the status quo and to ‘dream big’. Working with First Nations people requires commitment, authenticity, a shared vision and a willingness to think outside the box. What it can lead to is a grounding in truth and innovation in how we work and operate in Australia. 

We have an opportunity to re-shape the Australian Fashion retail experience and in celebrating progress towards this goal can be both internal, with our ICONITES and First Nations partners and external, with the broader fashion community. To do this, we can all consider the below actions:


  1. Be inspired. Have we created a space for First Nations cultures to be celebrated? Are we championing First Nations peoples/brands internally and externally?
  2. Be proud. Are First Nations peoples and cultures welcomed at THE ICONIC? Does our work with First Nations peoples align with our values?
  3. Be innovative. Are we continuing to challenge ourselves as a Fashion platform in Australia? Is our vision aligned with First Nations aspirations?

To celebrate every step towards a new Australia

This strategy could not have been developed without the contributions of First Nations peoples working in the First Nations fashion industry and supporting THE ICONIC. These people and Organisations were able to provide insights and advice to find out what the possibilities for what an inclusive First Nations fashion industry could look like.  We would like to acknowledge the following people and Organisations for their time, knowledge and experiences:

  • Julie Shaw
  • TJ Collishaw
  • Ebony Dunrobin
  • Clothing the Gaps
  • Cox Inall Ridgeway

Hunt, J. (2013). Engaging with Indigenous Australia - exploring the conditions for effective relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Retrieved 9 June 2022, from

Parsons, M., Fisher, K., & Nalau, J. (2016). Alternative approaches to co-design: insights from indigenous/academic research collaborations. Current Opinion In Environmental Sustainability, 20, 99-105. doi: 10.1016/j.cosust.2016.07.001

Strategic Partnerships with First Nations Peoples (First Nations Partnerships). (2020). Retrieved 10 June 2022, from

Two way teaching and learning key to educational equity. (2011). Retrieved 10 June 2022, from

Unpacking co-design. (2019). Retrieved 10 June 2022, from

Yunkaporta, T. (2019). Sand talk (pp. 274-275). Melbourne: Text Publishing.

Learn more about our People and Planet Positive vision.