#followfriday: 4 Indigenous Clothing Brands to Follow
By Holliston Logan
This week for #followfriday we are delighted to be sharing 4 Indigenous clothing brands to follow. If you are looking for ways to decolonize your wardrobe and fill your closet with Indigenous brands, these four companies are a great place to start. What other Indigenous clothing brands or designers do you wear? Let us know your recommendations on our Instagram!
Indigenous-owned, women-led, and size-inclusive - Lesley Hampton is a clothing and accessory brand that truly operates with a foundation of inclusivity and community. Based in Toronto, Ontario and founded by Lesley Hampton (an Anishinaabe and Mohawk womenswear designer), this self-titled, high quality brand is working to decolonize the euro-centric standards in the fashion industry and creating space for empowerment and representation in the industry. Lesley’s brand offers collections that range from eveningwear to athleisure—Lizzo was recently seen working out in one of her two-piece sets. Lesley also believes in the importance of partnering with other Indigenous designers; a recent collab with Scott Wabano saw her create a jacket inspired by traditional jingle dresses.
Giving back to community and building a more inclusive tomorrow are two important values at the heart of Lesley Hampton's work and brand, and she has found many ways to put these commitments into action. Not only does Lesley Hampton provide monetary donations, partnership-focused support, and mentorship opportunities, but has also launched the Lesley Hampton Award in partnership with the Ontario Mining Association at the School of Fashion in the Faculty of Communications and Design at Ryerson University.
We are especially grateful for the support Lesley Hampton has recently offered to the Matriarch Movement. During the month of June, 10% of online sales of the Aurora collection will be donated to the Matriarch Movement not-for-profit. We are so grateful for the generous support and Lesley's continual commitment to build reciprocal relationships with community. Matriarch Movement founder and podcast host Shayla had a chance to sit down with Lesley, and in this conversation Lesley spoke about the challenges she faces in the fashion industry; raising awareness for mental health; and the subtle nuances that make cultural appropriate different than appreciation. We encourage you to take time to listen to this conversation and hear more about Lesley's work from her directly!
Lesley has been described as “an important Indigenous face in the Canadian fashion landscape” by the Globe and Mail, and “Wherever her career takes her, activism and style will always go hand-in-hand” according to The National Post. (quoted from Lesley's biography)
SECTION 35 is a Vancouver based clothing brand, co-founded by Justin Louis (Nehiyaw) who was born and raised in Nipisihkopahk (Samson Cree Nation) in Treaty 6 Territory. This streetwear brand strives to share the struggles, dreams, and stories of the ancestors through their work. With community at the heart of their work, SECTION 35 has committed to working with other Indigenous artists and creatives, and you can see this commitment turned into action in all of their work. Speaking to this committment to community, in an interview with the Bata Shoe Museum as part of 2020 Indigenous Fashion week, Justin stated "Community is everything for us, and without community we are lost. From the very start of SECTION 35, I made sure that community was part of that vision. I wanted to be successful, but I also wanted to share that success and use it to give back to community. We run numerous fundraising campaigns every year to support different organizations, and use our growing platform to help amplify voices and messages that are important to us and our community. I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished to date and I hope to continue to expand as we grow. Without our community, we would not be where we are today and that is something that we never forget."
SECTION 35 never shies away from making a statement with their clothing and shedding light on Indigenous stereotypes and history with their work. The company name itself is a reference to section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 which protects and recognizes Indigenous and treaty rights in Canada. In fact, one of the first shirts the founders Justin Louis and Andrew Kazakoff designed featured the phrase "f--k colonialism" which inspired the team to continue on their journey of creating clothing with anti-colonial messaging. In an interview with CBC, Louis stated "It's been really popular, so basically what we've been doing is ripping logos, kind of misappropriating logos … to push a message — an anti-colonial message."
“Section 35 has always been about bringing Indigenous art, culture, and lifestyle into a streetwear brand that empowers and brings people together. Through our work, we strive to bring authentic representation to the streetwear world. Everything we do is based on the foundation of our truths as Indigenous people—it’s not always pretty, but it’s real. I feel that Indigenous people have a lot to offer the game. It’s important that the next generation of kids have something like that to witness and see what they are capable of doing. I want our people to be able to see themselves reflected in streetwear. And as we are able to do that, I want to continue to give back to the community.” - Justin Louis in an interview with Vogue
Dorothy Grant Studio is founded and owned by internationally renowned fashion designer and traditional Haida artist, Dorothy Grant. Dorothy has been working as a contemporary fashion designer for other 30 years, and was the first to merge Haida art and fashion. Formally trained at the Helen Lefeaux School of Fashion design, Dorothy grounds her work in culture and Haida identity and incorporates Haida philosophy and strives to embody 10,000 years of living Haida culture in her designs. Dorothy's career has been marked by many accomplishments and accolades, and reflecting on her journey on her website Dorothy writes: "My first outfit “the Raven Creation Tunic, debut at a potlatch at the “Big House Haida Feast” at Expo 1986 Vancouver BC. This piece was acquired by National History Museum of Canada. The current milestone was this February 2016 my “Eagle Raven tuxedo” worn by actor, Duane E. Howard at the Oscars Red Carpet with global tv coverage. I can’t even find the words that describe how I felt when I saw that! It was 30 years of emotions and memories, and it still overwhelms me." Dorothy's work and art is highly recognized and can be found in 15 museums worldwide, and Dorothy herself was awarded the Member of the Order of Canada in 2015 for her contributions to the fashion industry as a Haida artist, designer, and mentor.
A true trailblazer, Dorothy recognizes the impact her work has had in creating space and representation in the fashion industry. In an interview with CBC, Dorothy reflects: "It had a big impact because nobody was doing it at the time," she recalled. "I just remember being so busy for several months after that with people coming and wanting to order things." Her first collection debuted in 1989 and received extremely positive feedback, not to mention that it included an impressive 55 pieces! Speaking further to her work and Haida culture with CBC, Dorothy shared: "I think what a lot of people don't know is that I was a traditional fabric artist," she explained. "Haida weaving, spruce basketry and hats and button blanket making. I made a lot of regalia for dance groups. It sort of evolved into this idea of applying Haida art onto clothing and that's basically the roots of it. It always goes back to that sharing of culture and there's just a real great appreciation for Haida art and lots of various Indigenous art, but to apply it to garments is a different skill. It's about conveying that idea of transformation which is what really Haida art legend is about."
One thing we love about Dusty and his brand Mobilize is their honoring and recognition of the matriarchy. Dusty, father of three daughters, finds way to include his girls in his work with his daughter Lola even designing two hoodies: 'Lola' and 'Leonardo'. Mobilize recognizes the power of storytelling in clothing, and that many mainstream companies often appropriate Indigenous elements and imagery in their work, and recognized the need for street style that was Indigenous-owned and included appropriate imagery that truly represented Indigenous people. "As I got older, I started learning about the ways that Cree people used clothing–how it represented the different animals that were around, or the different types of artwork, and they would intertwine that into their clothing and that became their story. When they would go into meeting places, for instance a Pow Wow when nations would come together, people could know who they are just by simply seeing what they’re wearing." (Dusty in an interview with Fasion Magazine)
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