fashion

Kristy Dickinson is reclaiming the Aboriginal flag with her jewellery label, Haus of Dizzy.

When Kristy Dickinson was in primary school, she was teased for being Aboriginal.

At her school’s National Flag Day, she remembers her mum’s attempts to dress her in the black, yellow and red colours of the Aboriginal flag, however her protests prevented that from happening.

“I cried and cried and cried, and said ‘I don’t want to go to school because the kids are going to tease me‘. So, she let me stay home,” Dickinson said, speaking to Marlee Silva on the Tiddas 4 Tiddas podcast.

A lot has changed since then. Dickinson is now the founder of jewellery brand, Haus of Dizzy, whose iconic and eye-catching designs have earned her a cult-following on social media. Her acetate creations merge together fashion and activism, with her designs proudly championing images of the Aboriginal flag, and socially-charged quotes like ‘Stop Adani’, ‘Abolish the Date’ and ‘Girl Power’, while her signature earrings allow people to personalise their designs with their name or tribe.

Listen to Marlee Silva’s conversation with Kristy Dickinson on the latest episode of Tiddas 4 Tiddas:

In a way, Haus of Dizzy became Dickinson’s way of taking charge and reclaiming her Wiradjuri heritage, and she in turn encourages her customers to do the same.

“I just look back and I think: if I could just shake that little girl like ‘babe this is who you are, you need to embrace it,'” she says.

“I use [the flag] in my work a lot because I think back to that little girl who was so ashamed of being Aboriginal because people would tease her, but now I put those colours on and I feel stronger.

“I don’t want any other kid to go through what I went through. I want them to be proud to be black.”

 

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Having just moved her business from Sydney to Melbourne, Dickinson says she sees her label as herself “spewed up in earrings form”.

“People are like ‘oh what inspired you to do this, what inspired you to make that?’ and I [reply with], ‘I just make things that I want to wear,'” she says.

I don’t really follow trends or anything I just make things I like.”

While she never intended on becoming a business owner, Dickinson turned to creating jewellery as a way to capitalise on her creative talent and passion for “making things”, while giving her an excuse to leave her retail job. Dickinson then began selling her unwanted clothes at the markets to pay for tools and supplies, and when it came to finding a business name, she was inspired by a cheeky term of endearment she used to call her friends.

If my friends were annoying me, I’d call them a dizzy mole. Then I moved in with two dizzy moles in Newtown. They started using it and it became a more endearing term,” she jokes.

As the story goes, in 2015 Dickinson and her housemates were planning a house party. DJs, lighting and a photo booth had been organised, but they were stuck on what to call the Facebook event.

“We were like ‘Haus of Dizzy Moles’ and we were like ‘nah’, and then we did ‘Haus of Dizzy’ and that’s where it came from,” she recalls.

“It came from a house party.”

 

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Four years later her side hustle has spawned countless editorial features, an Instagram following of 32,300 people, and celebrity fans including the likes of Miranda Tapsell, actress Drew Barrymore, and legendary RnB singer Lauryn Hill.

“I’m a bit of a dork when it comes to celebrities,” says Dickinson, recalling her meeting with Hill.

“I got really nervous [and] had a couple of wines. Because I couldn’t hug her over the table, I grabbed her hand and kissed [it].

I still pinch myself.”

 

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Reflecting on the current issues surrounding the copyright of the Aboriginal flag, Dickinson says its symbolism has been tarnished.

As of October 2018, the original Indigenous artist behind the flag, Harold Thomas, granted company WAM Clothing worldwide exclusive rights to use the flag on their clothing, which prohibited other organisations, like the NRL, AFL, and Indigenous social enterprises like Spark Health Australia, to do so. Apart from WAM Clothing, Thomas has also granted Birubi Art Pty Ltd to distribute his designs, which is part-owned by WAM Clothing’s Ben Wooster.

However in 2017, Birubi Art was found guilty of selling over 18,000 boomerangs, bullroarers, didgeridoos and message stones to retail outlets around Australia, featuring designs “associated with Australian Aboriginal art,” and consequently fined $2.3 million dollars by the Federal court.

According to the ACCC, Birubi Art were in breach of Australian consumer law and “made false or misleading representations that products it sold were made in Australia and hand-painted by Australian Aboriginal persons”, when in fact they were made in Indonesia.

Although this doesn’t affect Dickinson’s designs (as the copyright only covers the flag being used on clothing), she was “disgusted” by the turn of events.

“Being aboriginal and having that flag, it means so much to me,” she says.

“[Instead] they were getting it made in Indonesia and flopping it off as Aboriginal. I feel like it is [still a big issue],” she says.

 

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Despite this, when it comes to non-Indigenous people wearing her designs which include the flag, Dickinson says she doesn’t see it as a problem, as long as they’re allies.

“I feel like if you’re going to be an ally and start those conversations and give awareness to what’s happening in Indigenous communities, then I feel like you can wear them,” she says.

“That’s the thing, [by] working altogether, [we’ll be] the strongest we’re going to be.”

For more information on Haus of Dizzy, you can check out her designs here, and you can listen to all our other Tiddas 4 Tiddas podcast episodes here.

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