Canada is full of incredibly talented Indigenous fashion designers and artists that often do not get the recognition they deserve. However, times are slowly changing and Indigenous designers are gaining more spotlight.
Events such as Indigenous Fashion Week, conducted by Joleen Mitton and Sage Paul, aim to celebrate Indigenous creatives and provide global recognition of the contributions of Indigenous ways of life and storytelling. Well-known brands such as Canada Goose have collaborated with Inuit designers to bring diversify their work within wider audiences. The 15 Percent Pledge in Canada has resulted in retailers such as Hudson’s Bay and Chapters Indigo diversifying their products and better include Indigenous-owned brands.
If you are looking to support and explore some beautiful Indigenous-owned fashion brands, here are a couple to keep an eye out for!
Formed in 2016, Lesley Hampton is a women-led, size-inclusive brand based in Toronto. Founded by Hampton herself, her namesake label focuses on athleticwear and leisurewear. Her products incorporates geometric patterns with hues of light pink, blue, purple and oranges. Hampton’s line also includes evening wear, such as lace-detailed dresses and skirts. Her brand “aims to decolonize euro-centric standards in the fashion industry” and focuses on giving back to the community through The Lesley Hampton Award.
Helen Oro Designs
Helen Oro Designs was founded by Helen Oro, who is Plains Cree from Pelican Lake First Nation band. Her brand features non-traditional wearable art accessories, featuring intricate designs and flamboyant beadwork that are handcrafted. Accessories such as eyewear, necklaces, earrings, and headbands are detailed with colourful, bright beads, jewels, and glass. Oro focuses on creating many opportunities for others in her community by mentoring, teaching model safety, and opening networking opportunities.
Manitobah Mukluks was founded in 2008 by Métis entrepreneur Sean McCormick. His footwear brand features traditional cold-weather boots with delicate beading and warm fur trims. McCormick’s brand also features moccasins, a traditional shoe made from animal hide, as well as slippers and gloves. Manitobah sponsors an annual bursary that allows select Native students to attend college or university, which is an ode to the brand’s philosophy.
Mikisikahtak Creations was founded by Paige Cardinal, who is a queer nêhiyawiskweêw. The foundation of Cardinal’s brand stems from her becoming a mother, as it has driven Cardinal to learn more about her culture and ancestry. Her creations and handmade and include fur pom poms, fox tails, and intricate beadings to create unique designs.
Three Sisters by Emma
Three Sisters by Emma was founded by Emma Cabana and is a jewelry line that explores the importance of relationships, understanding of tradition, and sustainability. The brand was inspired by Cabana’s initial beading and making earrings for each of her sisters. Her designs incorporate colour-blocking and geometric designs including arrows and triangles representing the Métis sash.
There are many Indigenous fashion artists that are creating innovative and culture-focused designs that are inspiring the fashion community worldwide. As they pave the way for success of future generations in their communities, let us support and uplift these designers by choosing to shop from them and appreciating their products.
Published by HOLR Magazine.