The inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto kicked off Thursday evening, showcasing new and upcoming designers.
The entire event will take place over four days, each day culminating with a runway showcase inspired by the traditional phases of the moon. Thursday was dubbed New Moon.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to do since I was in college,” said Sage Paul.
Paul, who identifies as an Urban Dene woman, is the artistic director and founder of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto.
“The goal of this fashion week is to redefine fashion where Indigenous voices and Indigenous representation is led by us,” said Paul.
“Generally speaking there’s an image of a pan-Indian so by bringing together all of our various nations it allows for a very diverse, exciting celebration.”
New Moon represents spring and birth — a fitting showcase for new works and emerging designers.
Toronto-based First Nations designer Lesley Hampton presented her latest collection “Lithium” which aims to break down the stigma around mental health.
“It’s really exciting to be part of this,” said Hampton.
“A lot of the time big box stores appropriate Indigenous designs so this is kind of our rebellion to that, showing the authentic way to do these designs.”
Diversity is a major theme of the Lesley Hampton brand both in the garments that she creates and the selection of models that Hampton uses.
Designer Evan Ducharme channels his Métis heritage in his latest collection, Atavism: Revisited, for practical fashion reminiscent of his upbringing.
“It’s great to be surrounded by so many Indigenous artists and Indigenous minds,” said Ducharme.
“We’re all so incredibly diverse, the only thing our work has in common is our connection to our indigeneity.
“There’s so many amazing events going on. It’s rare that an event of this nature happens but it’s an embarrassment of riches; we’re just swimming in this amazing pool of Indigenous intellectual minds and artists.”
Over four days there will be 24 featured designers from Canada, the United States and Greenland showcasing their unique designs, textiles, and interpretations of Indigenous fashion.
In addition to the runway shows, there are also workshops running through the afternoon each day where participants can learn skills like Navajo rug weaving. There’s also an introductory beading class.
Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto runs until Sunday, June 3 at the Brigantine Room, 235 Queen’s Quay West.