Blending Aboriginal art and fashion

Blending Aboriginal art and fashion

Cairns Central
Shopping Centre,
ground floor, Myer end
Ph: 0436 025 702

PHOTO BY Catherine Coombs

A love of Aboriginal art coupled with a first-hand knowledge of remote Aboriginal communities in the Central Desert was the inspiration behind Charmaine Saunders’ homegrown fashion label Mainie.
As a descendent of the Gunggari Aboriginal people from southwestern Queensland, Charmaine has founded her business on a firm commitment to support the economic empowerment of Aboriginal women in isolated and remote regional communities.

Co-founded with her husband, Denis Keeffe, Mainie represents a unique melding of authentic Aboriginal designs with luxurious silks from the fabled Silk Cities in China.
The artwork designs are ethically acquired under licence from Aboriginal-owned art centres located on the traditional homelands of the artists.

“These are genuine, traditional Dreamtime stories that have been passed down to the artists through many generations of their ancestors over thousands of years,” said Charmaine, who previously lived and worked in remote Aboriginal communities.

Since the launch of Mainie in Cairns in 2015, the label has grown quickly and now offers an extensive and diverse collection of men’s and women’s fashions featuring unique designs by over 20 Aboriginal women artists.

Each exquisite wearable art piece is beautifully boxed with the artwork provenance and artist’s biography.

“Australian Aboriginal art is the world’s oldest unbroken arts tradition, and we wanted to find a way to not only showcase this art to a world-wide audience but to also help the Aboriginal artists to earn an income from their own work,” said Charmaine, explaining that the artists retain the copyright to their original artwork which ensures they receive ongoing royalty payments for their designs.

As well as their own shop at Cairns Central and an online shop at, Mainie is also now available from over 50 stockists around Australia.

With plans underway to launch their first retail trials in Singapore by the end of the year, Mainie is well on its way to becoming an international brand.

“Our plan was always to go global,” said Charmaine. “Our vision is for Mainie to become a distinctively Australian brand recognized around the world.”