Sunday, June 10, 2018

This is the last of my posts for Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto. I want to commend everyone for a stellar first Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto! Thanks to the IFWTO Team/Founding Collective: Heather Haynes, Producer/Curatorial Advisor, Kerry Swanson, Development/Curatorial Advisor and Sage Paul, Artistic Director/Founder and the Programming and Production Team, an effectively widespread Media campaign, ongoing support from Sponsors an Partners, great shared information from Designers and so many other participants, gorgeous posters and a thorough, visually stunning program brochure, the Runway Shows were sold out, the Craft sessions fully subscribed, the seminars well attended and the Designer Showroom and Market Place very busy. Huge thanks to Damien Nelson, Flip Publicity, Publicist, for his prompt responses to my enquiries from Vancouver. More thanks to all of the wonderful Designers, but especially to Vancouver Designers; Evan Ducharme, Dorothy Grant and Denise Brillon that I had to see here, and to Marilyn R. Wilson, who knows about, writes about and talks about the vital importance of supporting Creatives in our midst. 

"IFWTO is committed to exploring the deep connections between mainstream fashion indigenous art and traditional practice through presentations for broad audiences and industries." Through this fantastic, hugely collaborative plan, the first Indigenous Fashion Week has provided a gold carpet model of absolute attention to people's heritage, first languages, cultural practices, history, and stories. Strong statements of resilience, power, pride, and unique, slow fashion luxury, were highlighted by the models, the performer who sang and danced them down the runway, each of the 4 evenings, by awed audiences who cheered and stood up for everyone. Met so many proud families, friends and supporters, and yes, many first timers to IFWTO. Congratulations!

Kerry Swanson - Development Director / Curatorial Advisor
Sage Paul - Artistic Director / Founder
Heather Haynes - Producer / Curatorial Advisor
Kerry Swanson is a powerful speaker and a great moderator! She and Kent Monkman had a lively conversation about the role of fashion in their lives and about Kent's, Miss Chef Eagle Testickle, a fashionable warrior woman, who takes her rightful place in treaty talks, Paris fashion shows, and performances around the world. The conversation featured a humorous yet deep discussion about how Kent, an author, painter, educator, performance artist and creator of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, continuously creates far reaching and powerful ways to affirm Indigenous presence, perspectives and invaluable contributions, past and present. I celebrated Canada 150 through Indigenous Fashion and Performance, last summer in Vancouver, (opening night and runway). This was, to me, a strong statement of resilience, strength, creativity, achievement and position. 

However, I learned to look more carefully and to think a lot about "colonial perspective",  the one sided version evident in North American Landscape paintings,  and got an instant education about that, through slides of Kent's reinterpreted visions. Through Miss Chief's supernatural powers as a trickster, she can be anywhere at any time, so can correct "colonial mythologies",  add the entirely absent Indigenous history to the conversation and also highlight appropriation (mis) of regalia and other cultural and spiritual symbols. And where does fashion come in? How about Miss Chief and Louis Vuitton making a 'marriage' collaboration which educates against misappropriation, shows the origin and purpose of the head dress and underlines the power of Fashion and Art to bring credit and cultural accuracy down the runway? Many, many voices in this conversation.

I encourage you to read more about Kent Monkman's iconic work on his website. Where else would I have had such an opportunity to meet him and hear him talk about the challenges and triumphs he faces as an Indigenous Artist? His vision is supported by collaboration, and an especially important muse, Giselle Gordon, was in the audience. Many young designers there, went off to continue the discussion. Lots of learning through humour and delight, both important learning vehicles. IFWTO is certainly the place to be, if you want to find Indigenous Fashion, Art, Craft, Panels, Workshops, Marketplaces...making today's history, monumentally!

Image via IFWTO

Image via IFWTO

Image via the Toronto Star

Image via IFWTO

Kerry Swanson, Moderator - To read more, visit IFWTO
At IFWTO 2018, I was able to attend two of the four runway shows. The first, New Moon, was a fabulous introduction to a four day week of shows, panels, workshops, gatherings, a dynamic 55 Artist Market Place and Designer Showroom and much more. Coming back to Toronto for the next one, for sure. HARVEST MOON radiated behind Rosary Spence, Mushkegawuk Cree, as she sang in traditional style that called our attention to the seasons of the moon rather than to fashion season.

Lots of Designers from Vancouver and in this, second runway show, there are two: Denise Brillon, Cree, whose collection honours her aunt, Blanche MacDonald, Designer, Model, Teacher, YWCA Women of Distinction Award Winner, creator and former owner of The Blanche MacDonald Institute, Vancouver, and Dorothy Grant, Haida. who continues the work of her maternal Grandmother, Florence Edenshaw.

The four Harvest Moon designers: Tracy Toulouse, Anishinaabe, Denise Brillon, Delina White, Ojibwa, and Dorothy Grant, presented clothing and accessories that are the result of traditional training from hand to hand, formal education, and exceptional creative abilities, that have brought them continued success in Fashion, the Arts and in Business.

Favourite photos are here, but I encourage you to read more about these fantastic designers on the IFWTO website. Further note: ART!Vancouver does a runway show of Artists carrying their paintings and sculptures down the red carpet. Dorothy Grant sent a dress and a man's shirt and suit down that carpet! This is a first and a grand statement about Indigenous fashion, truly a Wearable Art.

Standing ovation! Captivated audiences!

Singer song-writer and designer - Rosary Spence

Tracy Toulouse

Denise Brillon - Artifaax

Delina White 

Dorothy Grant

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Indigenous Fashion Week organized four fashion shows, which were named after the four traditional phases of the moon: New Moon, Berry Moon, Harvest Moon, and Frost Moon. New Moon is the first of the two runway shows that I attended. Fore more information, visit the Indigenous Fashion Week website.

The runway was back lit by an enormous, bright new moon. The music that introduced the first runway show of the week, was by Cris Derksen, an award winning, classically trained Cellist and Composer. Animated and engaging her audience, she brings her heritage, Northern Cree and Mennonite,  into her performance and achievement on the world stage.  The music spoke to a packed crowd, and had them swaying as they watched the outstanding models striding purposefully towards the cameras, proudly sharing Lesley Hampton's message: "We are in control" and the Metis history and both muted and brilliant colours and perfect fit, (think red) by Evan Ducharme, and the Coast Salish designed jewellery standout accessories to Warren Steven Scott's collection based on photographs taken on the reservations 1950-1980. The turquoises and yellows, oh my. Wearing her collection, "We are still here", Janelle Wawia's models were strong, real women, in a variety of looks, including a two piece, with shorts, lots of black shimmer and a gorgeous line of fur vests, purses, and hats. Suglit Lukxs Designs by Yolonda (Loni) Skelton showed a fantastic collection, which included capes, a fitted jackets, scarves, accessories and more. The throat singing that accompanied the models, emphasized the key connection to the land. The highlight of Meghann O'Brien's collection, was her beautiful black and white woven capes. Wow! 

A stunning introduction to the rest of the week! I will be featuring the Harvest Moon show in the coming days. 

Cellist Cris Derksen

 Meghann O'Brien

Sugiit Lukxs Designs - Yolonda (Loni) Skelton

Janelle Wawia

Warren Steven Scott

Evan Ducharme

Lesley Hampton

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