Wiradjuri woman Denni Francisco, a jury member in the VPDA fashion category, has a keen design eye that’s making a global impact.

By Georgina Jerums

Woman leaning on a stool

Denni Francisco

A born entrepreneur, Denni has worked for 25 years in loads of design roles, including as a Fashion Director in Los Angeles for a large international buying office.

But it wasn’t until the1990s that she struck out on her own, creating the hugely popular children’s wear label Billiecart Clothing.

Using a direct-to-consumer national sales team of 950 women, the venture gave many stay-at-home mothers the chance to earn an income whilst giving them flexibility. As a single mother at the time, this was at the very heart of Denni’s business model.

In 2018, a new career direction beckoned: Denni launched “slow fashion” label Ngali to connect more with community and Country.

“Some of Australia’s most talented Indigenous artists live in places you’ve never heard of and maybe you’ll never see,” she says. “We help bring their unique artwork to the world by including it in our range of premium-quality clothing and collectibles.”

Through the medium of fashion, the label gives more people access to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture by taking art beyond the walls and onto the streets around the world.

The brand also financially supports Indigenous children living in remote areas of Australia to enhance literacy and IT skills “so that they’re not left behind and can make a meaningful contribution to their communities. Ngali translates to ‘we’ or ‘us’ in a number of Aboriginal languages; and through the brand, we’re creating the ‘us’ we would like to see.”

“At Ngali, we want more people to know who we are, who we’ve always been... that there’s more to us than what you see through the lens of 200 years of colonisation. And fashion is a good way to do this; it means we can expand the reach of our stories. It means too that remote artists can access opportunities they may not otherwise have.”

Denni can’t wait to see the VPDA entries. “I’ve always loved observing and celebrating the creativity of others. Being invited to witness and celebrate the manifestation of creativity in the fashion space as presented by other creatives is a gift.

“Opportunities such as the VPDA awards enhance both creativity and business outcomes. They help build resourcefulness, persistence, flexibility, a sense of playfulness and they help support the creative potential of the individual. All of these attributes bode well in a business context whilst honouring the creative merit of the award nominees.”