Ever since she was a young girl, Corina Muir can always remember being into fashion. ‘Mum tells me this story of when I just started speaking and I put a full sentence together asking her if my outfit matched’, she recalls. ‘This was not a concept really spoken about by my mum, so I guess it shocked her a little, but I was just preparing myself for my fashion career’. The proud Yorta Yorta and Boonwurrung woman who describes herself as a ‘mother, nature protector, artist, designer and campaigner’ is the one-woman show behind Amber Days, an ethical clothing that is inspired by the Australian bush, desert and sea.
Up until this point Amber Days has been a label for children’s clothing, but soon Corina will make her foray into womenswear. The Wanala (meaning spring/summer in Yorta Yorta language) collection launches at 8pm on August 26th (tonight!), and is a collaboration with Kalkadungu artist Arkie Barton. It features active wear made from recycled plastic bottles, as well as 100% organic linen pieces. The range launched in June at this year’s groundbreaking Australian Fashion Week.
Corina is one inspiring person and businesswoman! We chatted a little more about starting her own business from scratch, and how she’s got where she is today.
Can you tell me a little about your background? Where did you grow up, and what else have you done that has brought you to Amber Days?
I grew up in suburban Melbourne with my mum, sister and brother.
I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, my grandad was a botanist and my grandma is the most sustainable, warm, loving woman who inspired my love of natural quality fabrics.
Although she would always buy second hand clothing (only quality), if she couldn’t find what she needed at the “oppy” she would only buy quality clothing made out of natural fibres.
She would take me shopping every season for a new outfit usually at Myer and I would find the prettiest designs I could find and convince her to buy me more than the one outfit, which I was usually quite successful at.
None of my family are particularly into “fashion” and none of them have their own business so when starting Amber Days I had to really convince them all of my dreams, and tell them that I was going to make it, and then tell them a hundred times more until they saw my dreams starting to unfold. They are my biggest supporters, even when they thought I was being too ambitious.
Growing up as an Aboriginal woman in a lower socioeconomic area, the idea of making something of myself was pretty low. It took me to my late 20s and becoming a single mum to recognise my strength and realise that nothing can stop me from achieving my dreams. And that was where Amber Days began, pretty much at the birth of Sapphire [Corina’s daughter].
Could you tell me a little about Amber Days? When did you start your brand, and why?
Amber Days is a 100% Aboriginal owned ethical fashion label inspired by the Australian bush, desert and sea which launched in 2018.
I have always been passionate about the environment and people, so when falling pregnant with my daughter, finding clothes that didn’t use harmful chemicals in their processes was really important. After doing some research into the fashion industry and the toxins and practices used, I was pretty terrified. This really reinforced the importance of transparency in the fashion industry and buying from designers that use organic fabrics that have been dyed with non toxic dyes and produced ethically. The fast fashion industry needs to change and we need to support the ones making this change.
One of my biggest motivations in starting Amber Days was to create business for good – to break down the barriers that young women of colour face, and shift the narrative around Aboriginal women in business. I believe supporting women is so important in creating a fairer and more just society, and changing the systems that continue to oppress women is essential in achieving this. Women still face multiple barriers to accessing paid work and even more so due to challenges like being a single mum or facing other systemic barriers. I was motivated to achieve financial independence, and push back on the narrative of having a 9-5 job, which just didn’t work for me as an Aboriginal woman and single mother. Having previously worked in the areas of family violence, child protection and community organising, I understand the challenges many women of colour face, and wanted to use my business as a vehicle for change. Amber Days collaborates with a different female Aboriginal artist for each collection, to share stories through art, continuing culture like we have done for tens of thousands of years.
So I began Amber Days not only to provide financial freedom for me and my daughter, but also to produce clothing free from harmful chemicals and without any form of environmental degradation in the production process.
What has your journey been like starting your own business from scratch?
It has been the most beautiful journey, so much more than I could have ever dreamed of. When running an ethical and sustainable business, it means that all my interactions with my suppliers etc. are so meaningful because they also have a business built on positive change.
And then there’s the collaboration side of it, I get to collaborate with Aboriginal women and share that with everyone through Amber Days, and my baby girl has been to almost every fitting, every meeting, even came down the runway with me at Australian Fashion week, like does it get any better than that? Culture, Country, Fashion, Family and Community.
Then there’s the hard times, they are so hard, but we get through them.
A care for the environment is a massive part of the Amber Days ethos – can you explain how Amber Days takes this into account?
We care a lot about our environmental impact and the ethics behind the production of our clothing. We want our customers to feel confident dressing themselves and their children in our clothing knowing that the environment and people have not been exploited in the process. Through the use of GOTS certified materials, natural fabrics, non-toxic dyes and small runs, we ensure Amber Days’ negative environmental impact is kept to a minimum.
All our garments are handmade in India under Fairtrade conditions, and we only work with strictly ethical suppliers. We use 100% GOTS certified organic fabrics, printed using GOTS certified non-toxic dyes, and have recently started using recycled plastic bottles as the basis for our new active wear range as part of the Wanala Women’s collection.
We are completely dedicated to constantly refining the ethics and sustainability surrounding our supply chain and our social and environmental impact. We ensure everything – from the fabric used to the creation of the garments – is ethically and sustainably done. And we endeavour to continually improve our processes around sustainability and our environmental impact and continue to support women and slow fashion.
Can you explain a little more about this new collection?
This is our very first women’s collection, and is a collaboration with proud Kalkadungu artist, Arkie Barton. The name Wanala means spring/summer in Yorta Yorta language.
We launched this collection at Australian Fashion Week which was such an amazing experience. I had never even been to Australian Fashion week and then to jump straight into showcasing there – it was insane!
The collection features active wear made from recycled plastic bottles as well as a range of 100% organic linen pieces, perfect for when the weather is starting to warm up.
We decided to branch into women’s wear after receiving thousands of messages asking for our pieces to be made in adult sizes, so finally after a year in the making, we are about to release our first ever women’s collection.
One of our favourite parts about this collection is it is a flow on collection from our children’s so there are lots of matchy matchy pieces, which is so fun!
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
I hope Amber Days will bring pride and connection to the people who wear my products, as well as strengthening their sense of identity and connection to country. For me, Amber Days is more than just clothing – it’s about reducing our impact on the environment, bettering our country, strengthening Aboriginal voices and revamping culture and language. I am an incredibly staunch advocate for ethical and sustainable business, and believe fashion is a powerful way to celebrate and showcase Aboriginal culture and stories.
The Wanala Womenswear collection launches at 8pm on Thursday August 26th. Head on over to the website to sign up to the mailing list and receive 10% off your first order!