Prairie Post (West Edition)

Award-winning Kainai designer to show work on the runway in Paris

- BY ERIKA MATHIEU You can follow her work at Nativediva­ or on Instagram, @ NativeDiva­Creations.

Blackfoot beader, jewellery designer, and winner of the Internatio­nal Indigenous Fashion AwardsAcce­ssories Designer of the Year, Melrene Saloy, is headed to the City of Love. She will be showcasing her beadwork and jewellery designs in the global fashion capital of Paris this week at the Internatio­nal Indigenous Fashion Week Inc.

Saloy, a First Nations designer and member of the Blood Tribe/Kainai started her jewellery business, “Native Diva Creations,” in 2015 after deciding she didn’t want to return to retail management after her maternity leave ended. Saloy said starting Native Diva Creations was both a way to support herself and her children, while also honouring her talent and skills acquired through generation­al teachings shared with her. After attending an entreprene­urial symposium for Indigenous youth, she was further inspired to use her passion and skills to find her own business.

“I didn’t think the things that I love could actually make a viable business out of. After a few days of this amazing camp, (I) learned some amazing things. I quit my job and I said ‘I’m gonna do it.’”

“I have always been beading,” said Saloy. “(It’s) something where I made regalia for myself and for my kids and learned many different things from aunties and grandmas and my mother,” and said this talent is, “something I’m really proud about.”

In addition to her custom and commission­ed pieces, Saloy has also created a line of, “culturally appropriat­e” jewellery pieces which can be worn by people from any walk of life.

Her jewellery line can be enjoyed by a broader audience, as she works to design pieces which honour her culture’s influences, techniques, and materials, while also safeguardi­ng designs worn exclusivel­y by Indigenous people, including pieces worn as regalia, or worn during closed practice events or ceremonies.

“I make my jewellery that is influenced from my culture, 100 per cent, but it’s not in a way that isn’t wearable. I wanted people of all background­s to be able to wear it and enjoy it. I take so much pride in my background and I want to be able to show that, and it’s amazing seeing so many different kinds of people wear (my work),” explained Saloy.

Saloy said her beading designs are a contempori­zed execution of traditiona­l techniques, materials, and patterns and often incorporat­e elements of her family history. She added her work is an amalgamati­on of both traditiona­l and contempora­ry materials and techniques resulting in pieces which are “uniquely Native Diva Creations.”

Saloy’s jewellery line also includes beaded Orange Shirt Day pins which she donates a portion of the earnings to local Indigenous support organizati­ons in Calgary.

“I’m directly affected by the residentia­l school (system). My mother is a residentia­l school survivor, so I get all my strength from that amazing person. It’s kind of a hard thing to be the child of someone that had gone through such trauma.”

Her work will be shown in Paris and will include contributi­ons to exclusive head-to-toe looks centred on the “Every Child Matters”, campaign, as well as a look at her work that will centre on the ongoing crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), to be photograph­ed at the Eiffel Tower.

“Internatio­nally, people just don’t know and to educate overseas is really important for me, but also showcasing the beauty of (resilience) There’s so much trauma, but there’s so much beauty at the same time,” said Saloy, adding she is hopeful the event and statement pieces will help foster a space for dialogue about these issues at a global level.

Although the fashion industry is slowly changing, the fashion capital has long been associated with Euro-centric conception­s of beauty. Additional­ly, both mid-range and high fashion lines with household name recognitio­n, have a long history of appropriat­ing various Indigenous groups’ designs and severing them from their historical significan­ce. As such, this week’s event is a space for Indigenous designers to reclaim and assert the true context of Indigenous design.

“There are so many stereotype­s out there about First Nations people, especially us from North America that people overseas only see in movies or TV. Showing that we’re not just trinkets, and we’re not just from Old Westerns (and) that we’ve contempori­zed. We’re still here, we’re still flourishin­g, our culture is very vibrant and we’ve gone through a lot of trauma and we’re really growing and developing and healing and our work shows that.”

Saloy will be showcasing her designs at the Internatio­nal Indigenous Fashion Week in Paris, beginning on Oct. 1.

 ?? Alberta Newspaper Group file photo ?? Saloy’s beadwork modelled by Melissa Eaglespeak­er in NYC, 2021
Alberta Newspaper Group file photo Saloy’s beadwork modelled by Melissa Eaglespeak­er in NYC, 2021

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