Courtesy of the Indigenous Fashion Arts
The Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival (formerly Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto) took place June 9-12, 2022, at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The four-day event, themed Walking with Light, included four theatrically-produced runway shows with 25 designers, a marketplace with over 60 exhibitors, and academic-focused panels and hands-on workshops open to the public. Each day highlighted an incredible show curated by Wanda Nanibush (Anishinaabe and Indigenous Art Curator, Art Gallery of Ontario), Melanie Egan (Director, Craft & Design, Harbourfront Centre) and Sage Paul (Denesuline and Executive & Artistic Director, IFA).
Here are the details about each show and just a sample of the talented designers whose bold and innovative designs graced Toronto runways earlier this June.
Eternal Imaginaries brought together a visionary group of artists and designers who share Queer Indigenous world views through fine craftsmanship, clever patternmaking and bold materials.
Sovereign Matriarchs featured a multigenerational group of designers celebrating the legacy and stewardship of our matriarchs’ labour and teachings through tradition, material and motif.
Time Weavers showcased an exquisitely skilled Canadian and international group of artists and designers who harness and sustain generations of knowledge, featuring the practices in trapping and fur design, weaving and material culture methods.
A Letter from Home was an enveloping memory of “home,” celebrating family and place, featuring a broad group of designers who create ready-to-wear fashion and jewellery. Their collections connect wearers to their lands and relatives through modern utilitarian Indigenous design.
Amy Malbeuf (Métis – Rich Lake, Alberta)
An award-winning Métis visual artist, Amy Malbeuf is from Rich Lake, Alberta, Treaty 6 territory, and currently lives and works on unceded Mi’kmaq territory in Terence Bay, Nova Scotia. Through the mediums of animal hair tufting, beadwork, installation, performance, wearables and tattooing, Malbeuf explores notions of identity, place, language and ecology. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally in over forty shows at such venues as Art Mûr, Montréal; Winnipeg Art Gallery; Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax; and Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe. Malbeuf holds a Native Cultural Arts Instructor Certificate from Portage College and an MFA in Visual Art from the University of British Columbia Okanagan.
Qaulluq (Inupiaq – Kotzebue, Alaska)
Qaulluq (Clara McConnell) believes in the importance of living by Iñupiat Iḷitqusiat (traditional values that make us who we are) and the responsibility we each have to pass on traditional knowledge by teaching others. Qaulluq is honoured to have been taught this beautiful tradition and knowledge passed down by the matriarchs in her family going back many generations, which encourages creativity and innovation.
Janelle Wawia (Anishinaabe – Opwaaganasiniing, Ontario)
A self-taught artist from Opwaaganasiniing (Red Rock Indian Band), Janelle Wawia’s multidisciplinary work interprets her visions and dreams that surface. She sews custom fur garments and accessories with fur from the trapline, beadwork and tanned hides. Wawia also upcycles garments, knowing fashion’s impact on the environment and wanting to preserve its sustainability and design. She spends a lot of her time on the land with family on the trapline. Wawia presented at the inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto in 2018 in the New Moon runway showcase.
Section 35 (Nehiyaw – Samson Cree Nation, Alberta)
Justin Louis (Nehiyaw) is a fashion designer, graphic designer, photographer and co-founder of Vancouver-based SECTION 35. A member of the Samson Cree Nation, Louis was born and raised in Nipisihkopahk (Samson) in Treaty 6 Territory and now calls the West Coast of British Columbia home. He co-founded SECTION 35 in late 2013 and officially launched it in 2016, intending to use art and fashion to tell stories, with streetwear being the medium. Louis has collaborated with artists from across Turtle Island, including Santiago X (Chicago), OxDX (Phoenix) and The Hundreds (Los Angeles). This year marks the fifth anniversary of SECTION 35.
Indigenous Fashion Arts sustains Indigenous practices in fashion, craft and textiles through designer-focused initiatives, public engagement and sector innovation. Their primary activity is the biennial Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival. IFA’s programming and initiatives illuminate and celebrate Indigenous people and cultures. With a commitment to Indigenous women, non-binary and trans people in leadership, IFA strives to nurture the deep connections between mainstream fashion, Indigenous art and traditional practice with amplified visibility.