How we choose to adorn ourselves is a personal expression of self-identity, sense of beauty, and belonging. The Indigenous culture expresses itself in the form of regalia, using materials such as leather, bone, feathers, silk, weave, and stone.
The inaugural Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week (VIFW) served to showcase how regalia can be incorporated in modern and innovative ways to create high fashion that is wearable by all, while also reclaiming Indigenous artistry and legacy.
From July 26 to 29th, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre atrium transformed into a place of both empowerment and political statement. Through the power of art, fashion, music, and dance, everyone joined together in solidarity and strength, and I felt privileged to be a part of it.
Besides admiring the creative talents of local Indigenous designers, I was impressed with how well oiled the VIFW machine was. Shows started on time and ran continuously without long delays in between, transitions were smooth, and the roster of mostly Indigenous models looked poised and confident.
Congratulations to founder Joleen Mitton and the entire production team – VIFW was a resounding success and will only grow bigger and better in the years to come.
The following are highlights from the over thirty designers who were represented at VIFW:
The first ever Indigenous designer to show at Paris Fashion Week and winner of numerous awards, Sho Sho Esquiro’s collection was exquisitely sophisticated.
Evan Ducharme’s ATAVISM collection seamlessly combined both traditional Metis embroidery and modern architectural lines to create a cohesive set of sleek minimalist looks.
I fell in love with New York designer and former Project Runway competitor EMME Korina Emmerich’s use of bright colour blocking in fresh, clean ways with an urban edge.
A selection of acclaimed Haida goldsmith and sculptor Bill Reid’s jewelry was borrowed from the Museum of Anthropology for a rare showing on the runway.
Into the Wildnerness
Using natural materials such as wool cashmere, lambskin leather, and horsehair, BC native Curtis Oland’s collection evoked a strong connection to his Lil’Wat First Nation heritage.
Section 35’s streetwear in the form of hoodies, denim vests, and print leggings exude effortless cool.
Inspired by her late grandmother’s oral stories, textile artist Yolanda Skelton creates classically feminine silhouettes in punchy primary colours against black.
Dahlia Drive repurposes discarded white curtain sheers and slips to create garments that are silk screened with Haida designs by Reg Davidson. Easy to wear and light as air.
Woven into Beauty
Debra Sparrow uses traditional Salish weaving techniques and designs to incorporate into clothing, as well as blankets.
Namaste It Out
Appeal Apparel’s striking leggings and bra tops are perfect for the west coast’s athleisure lifestyle.
All runway look photos by Peter Jensen