The Indigenous Fashion Arts Competition (IAF) in Toronto, which took place from June 9-12 after a prolonged COVID-related delay, set the stage for a spectacular display of the world’s top Indigenous styles, textiles, and crafts. This event was more than just a runway show; it was a celebration of Indigenous culture and creativity, showcasing the strength and resilience of Indigenous designers and artists.
This year, the IAF introduced an exciting new element to the event by partnering with Apple. Designers were given the opportunity to create mini-documentaries using iPhone 13 Pros to accompany their runway presentations. This innovative approach allowed designers to share their stories, their inspirations, and the process of creating their designs in a more immersive and personal way.
Here, we introduce you to four Indigenous designers who are making waves in the Canadian fashion world and using their creativity to tell important stories:
- Evan Ducharme: Evan Ducharme’s design approach is deeply rooted in storytelling and worldbuilding. His designs reflect his connection to his community and his desire to honor the traditions of his ancestors. Ducharme’s intricate pleats, drapes, and embroidery are a testament to his craftsmanship and dedication to his craft. He draws inspiration from legendary designers like Madame Grès and Cristobal Balenciaga, as well as contemporary visionaries like Olivier Theyskens and Christopher John Rogers.
- Livia Manywounds: Livia Manywounds uses her designs to tell essential stories about her ancestors and culture. Her creations incorporate traditional elements like appliqués and beadwork while adding a modern twist. Sweetgrass, a medicinal plant that purifies and cleanses, plays a significant role in her designs. Manywounds’ use of color and pattern is not just an aesthetic choice; it carries cultural and spiritual significance, making her creations a powerful representation of her identity and heritage.
- Janelle Wawia: As a self-taught designer, Janelle Wawia fell in love with fashion at a young age. Her designs focus on blending traditional and modern elements while staying connected to her land and culture. Working with fur is a vital part of her design process, rooted in her upbringing and connection to the land. Wawia’s creations tell stories of her people, their resilience, and their connection to the traditional medicines that have sustained them for generations.
- Dusty LeGrande: Dusty LeGrande, a father and designer, finds inspiration in his children and their unique perspective on the world. His brand, Mobilize Waskawewin, aims to create impactful stories through clothing, often drawing inspiration from the colors and playful elements in his children’s world. LeGrande believes in the power of streetwear as a voice for activism and self-expression. He is also dedicated to supporting the next generation of creatives through the Next Gen Scholarship, breaking down barriers and fostering knowledge sharing.
These Indigenous designers are not only reshaping the Canadian fashion landscape but also using their creativity as a platform for cultural expression and healing. Their designs are more than just garments; they are a reflection of their identity, stories, and the strength of Indigenous communities. As the fashion world becomes more inclusive and diverse, these designers are at the forefront, creating a future where Indigenous culture and artistry take center stage.
The Indigenous Fashion Arts Competition serves as a reminder of the richness and depth of Indigenous culture, and the designers featured here are leading the way in showcasing its beauty through fashion. Their work not only honors their heritage but also paves the way for a more inclusive and vibrant fashion industry in Canada and beyond.