Historic Canadian garment manufacturer Freed & Freed (FREED) has joined forces with Winnipeg-based Anishinaabe interior design company Indigo Arrows, to produce a collection of non-medical face masks inspired by Indigenous artistry. The collaboration, Indigo Arrows x aMASK by FREED, which launches on December 3 across Canada, brings together two Canadian female entrepreneurs (FREED’s Marissa Freed and Arrows’ Destiny Seymour) with a passion for design, community and giving back. 100 per cent of mask proceeds will go to The Butterfly Club, a program and safe space designed to engage, motivate, and support Indigenous girls and Two-Spirit youth.
1. How did you come up with the brand?
Destiny: I’m an interior designer from Winnipeg Manitoba. I’ll give a quick intro towards how we got the pattern, I had trouble finding finishes and materials that reflected indigenous people in the prairies in Manitoba. So I started a textile line that is reviving pottery patterns, ranging to over 3000 years old. The pattern on the mask is called Ishkoday, and it’s to represent fire, part of an element series, and Ishkoday is the first pattern in the series. I hand print these on pillows, and Leila from FREED reached out to me on instagram, we had some meetings and decided to collaborate. That’s where it all began . The Ishkoday pattern worked well because as you can see the triangles can go on either side.
2. Why did FREED want to do this collaboration?
Marissa: We came up with “a mask by freed” obviously at the very beginning of the pandemic, and we felt as we continues on and are looking dow the road of 10 months now, we felt so grateful to have the success we have today. At that point in time we had always been giving a portion of proceeds back to local charities. We saw how tough COVID was for people and we decided that we wanted to make a collaboration that came together for a few reasons.
1- FREED was turning 100
2. That in itself is Canadian heritage and we wanted to represent Canadian history.
3. Thinking about local artisan, which is Destiny and her creations.
My family had pieces wth Destinies collections, and we wanted to align ourselves with the indigenous community because when referencing Canada and history of Canada, all of those things come together, and because her creations and visuals are so gorgeous. All in all we reached out to Destiny, and our values matched so well which was the game changer for us to come up with this collaboration.
3. In a collaboration like this, there’s always some obstacle. What’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome with the design or collaboration itself?
Destiny: With all the social distancing and COVID right now, it’s quite different to have design meetings. We’re used to meeting in person, sketching together, and face to face collaborations but now, it’s a lot of ZOOM calls. This is also convenient for when the team is in different cities. But I think that was the biggest obstacle, the meeting and trying to make sure we get all our ideas across by just virtual meetings. We have small children so having meetings with our kids climbing on us, but still being able to get it done. Its great to meet another camel entrepreneur working & being a mom as well.
5: Tell us about The Butterfly Club
Destiny: The butterfly club is a program that runs out of Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc. and its a local organization for an indigenous organization her in Winnipeg. It’s an after school program that creates a safe space for young girls, the ages are 9-13. It’s two days a week and starts off with making dinner after school, then starting on different crafts, topics to study, learning languages, not one language. It’s up to the participants, it’s up to 20 participants. When COVID started they had to go online but they still deliver kits weekly, and the kits include food because that’s how they would start, with sharing a meal together. Some young girls don’t have a way to check in virtually, they also phone in weekly, it’s a great way for support especially at that age. I started working with them a couple of years ago when I first began my business because this felt, these patterns coming form the land and the past that are actually my ancestors, I was so grateful to be able to revive them that I wanted to give back in some way. That was something right form the beginning I spoke to Marissa and the team about, that this is really important to me, whatever my commission I want it all to go to The butterfly Club, and they came back saying they want to give majority of profits to the program.
Marissa: Destiny and I are both moms of girls, and I think when you sit back and listen to people who are so involved with something like the Butterfly club, and hearing how life changing this after school program can be for some at risk girl, and knowing that age bracket is a very influential age for girls. As a mum, you can really put yourself in those shoes, and its such a mind blowing experience to be able to say “we were able to do this for girls of that age group.” Some are participating to learn more about cultures and tradition, but are in the position where they wouldn’t have the opportunity to have access to this kind of organization without some kind of funding, and now they are underfunded.
This collar gives back to the butterfly club every cent of the proceeds goes towards the butterfly club. There were two things Aisha (the head of the butterfly club) highlighted in regards to where funding is going.
1) getting computers/internet to participants to be able to partake
2) Getting a full time staff member – due to cover and lack of funding they weren’t able to maintain the staff they have.
-We have reached the goal for the laptop/ internet and are now working to reach the goal of getting a full time staff member.
6: What are you most hoping people take away or understand when they see the collaboration?
Destiny: I think for me when Indigo Arrows right form the beginning has been a teaching tool in some way, pre-covid meeting customers and talking about the history we had. Focus mainly just Manitoba, all these beautiful patterns, pottery history, and a lot of people have been surprised that we made pottery with such designs on them 3000 years ago. Being able to tell that story and people recognizing the pattern and being like “Oh it’s Ishkebe” and speaking Ojibway language without really knowing it. For me, I feel very proud about that. My dad really helped me out with that, he’s fluent in Ojibway it’s something for me. The history behind FREED it’s over 100 years old made in Winnipeg, and Marissa and I are both form that region so I just think its a great match, especially today.
Marissa: I guess there’s a few things. One would be learning more about Canadian History, and I think part of what FREED realizes we have and for our platform is its collaborations, although its a perfect combo of creativity form our side and Desitny’s side. We’re really proud that we’re able to make sure artists have an even platform to be showcased. For us, we’ve been bale to gain exposure from a community that maybe wouldn’t come to FREED as much, and visa versa for Destiny. We hope we’re able to bring more communities together an more awareness together to one another, and at the same time to be able to educate Canadian’s, or North American worldwide a little more about the indigenous culture and language. Destinys been so thoughtful of how she’s named her patterns and how they relate back to all kinds of interesting things that I think Canadians as a whole are aware of. Beyond that, this is a feel good story of two women with a diverse work force, two moms making their way through COVID and giving back to their local community which is the upmost importance to FREED and Indigo Arrows before this collaboration. I hope that’s what people will take away. I hope people are learning more and more about other cultures more than ever, there’s something on the forefront of COVID that I think is super important. Its a winning story for girls that are at the butterfly club,for other women, and other people in general with what we were able to do during coven as women and as mothers.