The first annual Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week (VIFW) is here, and it’s def cause for excitement. Featuring more than 30 designers, artists and creatives, the four-day event runs from July 26 to 29 at the city’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Creator Joleen Mitton hopes the inaugural Fashion Week will increase Indigenous representation in media and act as inspiration for younger generations of Indigenous people. Mitton herself modelled for more than 10 years—working for the likes of Kenzo and Vivienne Westwood—but eventually left the biz to reconnect with her Plains Cree, French and Scottish identity. In 2008, she began working with Vancouver’s Pacific Association of First Nations Women (PAFNW), counselling foster children and trying to inspire younger generations to embrace their heritage.
While working with PAFNW, Mitton came to realize that the Indigenous youth she worked with only had white role models: “They were dying their hair blonde and the people they looked up to included Miley Cyrus. They were not into their own culture,” she recently told our sister publication Maclean’s. Cue the birth of VIFW. Mitton says that 98 percent of the models will be First Nations, Métis and Inuit—including some former and current members of the foster care system.
While the focus of VIFW is championing Indigenous designers and the “truths of land, territory and rightful place,” the event will also acknowledge cultural appropriation in the mainstream fashion industry. For a sampling of what’s in store—including work by Sho Sho Esquiro (we *love* her very boss, fur and gold-trimmed ballgowns) and Evan Ducharme (whose Motif Skirt is comprised of 1,500 strips of tulle meant to represent a traditional Métis weaving pattern)—click through for 10 VIFW designers you need to have on your radar.
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Sho Sho Esquiro
Using materials like salmon skin, beaver tail, deer hide, shells and feathers, Sho Sho Esquiro, who is Kaska Dene and Cree from the Yukon Territory, effortlessly weaves bold colours with earthy tones into her pieces, many of which she says are inspired by stories she grew up hearing.
What We’ll See at VIFW: “My latest collection is dedicated to my late grandmother,” she says. “I will also be debuting a couple of collaboration pieces that I did with the late Master Weaver Clarissa Rizal.” Esquiro says we can expect lots of “rich colours, fabrics and furs with intricate details of platinum, 24K gold, mother of pearl, embroidery and beads.”
—With files from Hiba Traboulsi
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