Saturday, January 20, 2018

An Interview with Dorothy Grant - Haida Artist and Fashion Designer

 
Article by Dianna Drahanchuk
Photos by Dianna Drahanchuk and with her permission from Dorothy Grant's website

I met Dorothy Grant, icon of Indigenous Fashion, on a rainy Saturday afternoon the day after the presentation of her latest collection at the Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery. When asked to confide something that not everybody knew, she disclosed that she used to be a data processor for a software engineer. During high school, she discovered her love of sewing and sewed First Nations traditional dance costumes and button blankets while embarking on her 10-year technical career. Finding that vocational path unsatisfying she took a scary leap of faith and enrolled in the Helen Lefeaux School of Fashion Design in Vancouver. According to Ms. Lefeaux, you either “had it or you didn’t”. Luckily Dorothy “had it”.

Dorothy will celebrate 32 years in the fashion business next year. The Feastwear and Dorothy Grant label productions are not high-volume, only two people sew her clothes. The men’s and women’s clothing and accessory designs have always been inspired by traditional Haida art as its core base. She branded her fashion line intuitively and her clientele, typically art collectors and enthusiasts and those who appreciate the work and textiles that make up her exquisite pieces, can be found wearing her garments as far away as New York and Paris.

Impressively, her pieces can be found in 15 museums world-wide. Her greatest success to date is the purchase of a Haida Wedding Dress by the Smithsonian Institute this year for a price similar to that paid for a finely carved totem pole. Dorothy designed it to honor her mother’s dream wish and called it “Raven Takes the World”. See this beautiful dress featured on her website.

Dorothy was awarded the Member of the Order of Canada in 2015. This is "definitive evidence" of her "outstanding achievement, dedication to community and service to the nation". Her widely recognized Art is truly Wearable Art and, as such, is an ongoing Education about Haida culture and design. She is in the process of writing a memoir of her designing years. Once that is finished she plans to create a curriculum for a 5-day course for Indigenous Programs. Dorothy is an amazing inspiration and has a great deal to teach. Undoubtedly her lessons will be taken to heart and in hand, an embodiment of her logo that symbolizes the sharing of the creative spirit within.

Westcoast Homes & Design wrote an extensive piece “At Home with Dorothy Grant” in their October 2017 issue. You can read her bio, news stories and buy apparel and accessories on her website or her studio Facebook page.





 
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