Calgary conference promotes Indigenous fashion: 'A story behind every design'

WATCH: The fashion world can be tough territory when you're trying to find success with your original designs. It's a challenge Indigenous designers are tackling head-on in Calgary this week, adapting the old ways to the modern world. Gil Tucker has the story.

Indigenous designers have come from several parts of North America for a fashion conference this week at Calgary’s Mount Royal University.

“Indigenous designers, it’s time for them to have a place in the mainstream fashion industry,” conference organizer Veronica Marlowe said.

Marlowe is a member of the Lutsel K’e First Nation in the Northwest Territories.

She says Indigenous designers are notable because of “the authentic quality these clothes are coming from.”


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Part of that authentic quality comes from the materials used in the fashion. Among those demonstrating that process was Carola Jones, a woman from North Carolina, whose Algonquin roots go back centuries.

“It’s important to keep the culture alive, to know the traditional ways,” Jones said.

Jones led a workshop on dyeing cloth with indigo.

“Indigo is a sacred healing plant,” she said. “A lot of Indigenous cultures around the world do indigo. This is something my family has kept alive for hundreds of years, so I’m sharing it so it can continue.”


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The conference includes more than 30 designers from throughout Canada and the United States.

Many of them will feature their work in fashion showcases on Nov. 8, Nov. 9 and Nov. 10. Click here for more information on the Otahpiaaki 2018 event.

The showcases run from 7 to 9 p.m. each evening at the Atlantic Avenue Arts Building at 1009 9 Ave S.E. in Calgary.

“First Nations people, there’s a story behind every design that they make,” conference organizer Jeannie Davis-Smith said. “It comes from the land and it just shows that our connection to the land is so strong.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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