Brand (GALI), Runway (AAFW, David Jones Indigenous Fashion Projects Runway / Photographer: Thilo Hirscheider

As a gay aboriginal man, David Leslie’s vision for GALI swimwear is to fuse Australia’s First Nations culture with sustainable swimwear that tells a story, sparks conversations and creates connections.   He recently debuted his collection at Australia Fashion Week.  GALI makes its American debut on July 12th at Miami’s Flying Solo fashion, part of Miami Swim Week.   It will be the first time ever that an Indigenous men’s swimwear brand has ever showcased a collection at Flying Solo.

As a young aboriginal boy growing up on the Dharug country of Australia, did you imagine you would one day be showcasing your creations on international runways?

David Leslie:  Honestly, I was more interested in sports than fashion! I was always playing outdoors, and as a teenager, I loved swimming. It’s my love for the water that led me to fashion.  I’m a volunteer surf life saver at North Bondi Beach in Sydney. It was on the beach that I first had the idea to create an indigenous men’s swimwear label. GALI is my way to connect my love for the water with my culture.

How did you turn your dream into a reality?

David Leslie:  I started working on launching GALI from my living room apartment in Bondi Beach. I have a business and marketing background, which has really helped. As GALI has grown, I’ve gained new skills, like understanding the manufacturing process, managing stock effectively, and accounting. I’ve also learned to ask those around me for advice, to absorb information and to capitalize on opportunities.

What will you be showing at the Flying Solo fashion show?

The collection we will be showcasing is titled Lukarrara.  It’s a collaboration with Pauline Napangardi Gallagher, a Warlukurlangu artist. Each design in this collection incorporates bright colors and complex, interwoven patterns to create bold statement pieces.

Can you explain what it was like to grow up gay and Aboriginal?

I’ve been really lucky to have always felt safe and included in both the LGBTQIA+ and Aboriginal communities. My family and friends were very caring and supportive when I came out. I am naturally a little bit quiet, so I have always tried to find groups and communities that are fun, safe and inclusive. For me, that’s been surf lifesaving and LGBTQIA+ sporting clubs.

Did you have access to TV shows like Project Runway?

I didn’t watch a lot of TV growing up, but nowadays my boyfriend and I love to binge on shows like Project Runway, Making the Cut, RuPaul’s Drag Race and Queer Eye. I always love to see who Antoni and Tan are wearing.

What’s next for GALI Swimwear?

Soon after it’s showcase at Miami Swim Week, we will launch the Lukarrara collection for consumers, as well as a new racer cut swim brief. Swim shorts and beach towels are also in development.