Indigenous fashion designers are making their mark on both national and international runways, showcasing their unique creations to the world. One such designer, Melrene Saloy, a Blackfoot designer from Kainai Nation, is preparing to take her culturally appropriate First Nations jewelry and accessories to Paris Fashion Week in September.
Saloy’s journey into fashion started when she was a child, learning to sew with her grandmother and aunts. Today, she runs her own business called Native Diva Creations, which specializes in creating First Nations-inspired jewelry and accessories. She prides herself on employing an all-Indigenous team, including models, makeup artists, and photographers.
Having started her business nearly eight years ago, Saloy decided not to return to her job in retail management after going on maternity leave. Instead, she founded Native Diva Creations and has never looked back.
Saloy’s talent and dedication have led her designs to prestigious runways. Last year, her designs were featured at New York Fashion Week, a moment she describes as incredibly emotional and impactful. For her, it was an opportunity to showcase her culture and heritage to a global audience.
Saloy is just one of many Indigenous fashion designers gaining recognition in the fashion industry. Organizations like the International Indigenous Fashion Week Inc. (IIFW) have played a crucial role in supporting Indigenous designers and providing them with opportunities to showcase their work.
Founded in 2012 by Chelsa Racette, who is Cree from the Nekaneet First Nation in Saskatchewan, IIFW was established to ensure that Indigenous designers are not sidelined but given the spotlight they deserve in fashion shows. Racette saw the need for a platform where Indigenous designers could connect with each other and the mainstream fashion industry.
Since its inception, IIFW has taken Indigenous designers to various fashion events worldwide, including New York, Paris, and London. Racette’s vision is to integrate Indigenous designers into mainstream fashion circles and encourage them to network with their peers globally.
Saloy and Racette both agree that Indigenous designers bring unique perspectives and cultural richness to the world of fashion. They are determined to challenge the appropriation of Indigenous designs by non-Indigenous designers and ensure that Indigenous creators are acknowledged and celebrated for their contributions.
As Saloy prepares to present her designs at Paris Fashion Week, she hopes not only to introduce her work to international buyers but also to spark a broader conversation about Indigenous designers’ role and significance in the fashion industry. She wants to open doors for other Indigenous artists and inspire more Indigenous individuals to explore the world of fashion.
In her words, Indigenous designers are more than just beads and feathers; they are storytellers, culture bearers, and creators of meaningful and purposeful fashion. Their journey in the fashion world is about healing, reclaiming culture, and sharing their unique perspectives with the world.