Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week empowers youth, designer says

It's Vancouver’s fourth annual Indigenous Fashion Week. Sarah Chew speaks to one designer who shares how her mother’s heritage influenced her designs this season, and why shining a light on Indigenous artists is important to her.

By Sarah Chew

It’s the fourth annual Indigenous Fashion Week in Vancouver, and one designer says the show empowers Indigenous youth.

Himikalas (Pam Baker) is one of the many Indigenous fashion designers and artisans showing their work during the week. She’s based one of her collections this season on her mom’s Musqamaqw Kwakwaka’wakw family history and cultural values.

The event is running for its fourth year. Not only does it highlight Indigenous fashion designers from all over Canada’s west coast, but many of the models are Indigenous youth who have been in the foster care system that has received training and mentorship from the fashion show’s own mentorship program.

“I started working with First Nations youth to promote better decisions, lifestyles, self-esteem, and confidence. And what better way to do it is through fashion shows? So we can train the young people etiquette, walking, posture, makeup, hair care,” Himikalas said.

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With over 30 designers, 40 artisan vendors and live musical performances, the event hopes to shine a light on the beautiful array of Indigenous artistic expression.

“People now realize that there’s just not one Indian, you know, like the TVs back in the day. It was that that’s an Indian in a cowboy Western show. There’s so many different tribes,” she said.

“A show like this kind of uplifts you to say, wait a minute, we’re still here. I always say that we’re still here. You guys can wipe us out, you know, and we’re going to be here for a long time.”

Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week runs from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

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