How these Indigenous fashion designers are taking a modern approach to traditional designs
CBC News | June 18, 2023
Show was a part of the International Indigenous Fashion Week
Louise BigEagle · CBC News · Posted: Jun 18, 2023 6:00 AM EDT | Last Updated: June 19
Indigenous fashion designers got a chance to show off their work as part of International Indigenous Fashion Week (IIFW) in Regina.
IIFW partnered with the Buffalo People Arts Institute for a fashion show at the Mamaweyatitan Centre on June 3.
Eight designers showcased their Indigenous-fused clothing and bags to an eager audience, while vendors offered local handmade items and food.
Chelsea Nokusis is a fashion designer from Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan. She meshes current trends with Indigenous cultural clothing for her brand Chelsea's Cree-ations.
Nokusis is a mother to four children. Her oldest daughter, 16-year-old Rain, is often one of her models.
Nokusis started designing during the COVID pandemic. Although it was an uncertain time, Nokusis focused on creativity.
She makes starblankets, grad dresses, ribbon skirts and most recently a wedding dress, all incorporating Indigenous cultural designs.
"Growing up, I never seen any of this and I really wanted to bring that into our culture, into fashion, so that way our people can wear it to grads, to galas, anything like that," said Nokusis.
She balances being a fashion designer and a mother with the help of support from her family.
"Their father, my spouse of 16 years, always has my back and is there to help," said Nokusis
Tanya Straightnose, from Keeseekoose First Nation, is the creator of Indigenously Beaded Hat Designs.
Straightnose is a self-taught beader and has been doing it for two years. She originally ordered herself a beaded hat from another designer, but decided to take a try at it herself.
"Usually for fashion shows it will take me a day, because I'll push myself. Other than that I give myself two days to do [a hat]," said Straightnose.
Its also a family affair for Straightnose, who brings her niece Jaydan Severight along to her shows. Severight helps with photos and videos, but Straightnose also wants her niece to see her work as a fashion designer.
Yolanda OldDwarf came all the way from Billings, Mont., to show off her brand Sweet Sage Woman. She made the trip, her first to Canada in 22 years, to show her contemporary spin on traditional designs.
OldDwarf is a member of the Apsaalooke Nation and a mother to four children. She opened the show with her MMIW-inspired self hand-printed dress.
She said her designs each carry meaning. For instance, the flowers on one of her dresses symbolize gratitude.
"This is the orchid cactus. It's a flower that demonstrates patience, because some of them only bloom once a year for one day," OldDwarf said as she flipped through a rack showing off some of her designs.
"I also have the stars, the mountains and the horses. My tribes are horse people, so we train our horses and we need a lot of patience to train."
OldDwarf said she started designing clothing because she wanted to empower and encourage Indigenous women and men, as all her designs are for anyone to wear.
The Indigenous Fashion Show also included arts vendors, food and traditional dancing. It was attended by people of all ages, from babies to elders.