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Designing with Integrity: A look inside Milliken’s collaboration with Gumbaynggirr Artist, Brentyn Lugnan

This collection of six carpets shows how authenticity and integrity can create a positive impact.

Gumbaynggirr man and artist Brentyn Lugnan is leading a revival. His work is part of a mission to reclaim the identity and uniqueness of his native Urunga land, restoring and reimagining what colonisation had destroyed. As custodians of the Bellinger and Kalang Rivers, Lugnan and other Goori artists are saltwater freshwater people, and their art tells the stories of people, places and life on the edge of these rivers – a tale of what is, was and will be.

Working in collaboration with Milliken, Lugnan has created “Water Yuludarla”, a collection of work embedded in the stories of the Gumbaynggirr people. Comprised of six unique designs, the collection speaks to the experiences of his ancestors, to the sustenance provided by the rivers and to the spirit born from the lineage of his family.

A homecoming in the truest sense of the word, Lugnan’s art was inspired by his return to the NSW North Coast and the reconnection that comes from going back to one’s roots. “When I was designing the Water Yuludarla, I had to represent where I’m from, my connection to that Country, and my old people,” he reflects.

But if you’re picturing Water Yuludarla hanging on gallery walls, think again, as this artwork is realised through the medium of carpet, as part of Milliken’s ‘Reconciliation Through Design‘ initiative. With applications possible across multiple market segments and spaces, Water Yuludarla is an opportunity for designers, specifiers, and businesses alike to capture Lugnan’s story and embed the culture of Australia’s first people into the very fabric of their spaces.

“At Milliken, we look at how we can make a positive impact, not just today but for generations to come,” says Milliken Managing Director Shaneel Deo. “[The] Reconciliation Through Design initiative was created as a platform for Indigenous artists to commercialise their art, keep ownership of the intellectual property and earn ongoing royalties into the future.”

Importantly, this is a partnership founded on respect and trust, where brand and artist alike know that they will each do the right thing by each other and that Milliken has deep respect for the stories being told through their products.

“An  amazing part of the process for me was then seeing how they saw [my art]”, Lugnan says. “I was made to feel so comfortable and so respected, and I had this sense that they were going to do right by me and hold the integrity of my work throughout the entire process. And that’s what I saw… I feel I’ve kept the integrity of the work and Milliken have helped me keep that integrity even further down the line.”

For Milliken Creative Director James Mfula, ‘Reconciliation Through Design’ is a way for the brand to work closely with First Nations’ artists and guide them through the process of creating their own product. From getting them in front of the entire team, to having open communication throughout the life of the partnership, Milliken’s approach ensures the artists’ integrity is maintained from conception to completion and that they are supporters – rather than directors – of the stories being told.

“I’m just a vehicle,” Mfula says, “Brentyn’s work is something that I need to take care of and make sure the story and the design comes through.”

As brands across the design industry look to continue or begin their own reconciliation process, it is this commitment to integrity that they should hold close. Allowing First Nation’s voices to exist authentically as their own allows for collaborations to respect and celebrate the artist, their culture, and the Country from which their stories are made.

In the case of Water Yuludarla, Milliken has been able to translate the work of Brentyn Lugnan into art that can be specified en-masse into commercial spaces. Like the carvings and paintings of Lugnan’s ancestors, his work tells the stories of his people, etching them onto carpets that will line the floors of buildings around the country.


This video was filmed at the Haworth showroom, The Porter, in Sydney where selected carpets from the Water Yuludarla collection are on display.


The Porter

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