A force for change

Indige­nous de­signer An­gela DeMon­tigny is shap­ing the fu­ture of Cana­dian fash­ion

StarMetro Edmonton - - THE KIT - Kelly Bout­sal­isTHE LUIS MORA FOR STARMETRO

An­gela DeMon­tigny has been dis­pelling stereo­types about Indige­nous fash­ion for over 20 years.

“I’m cre­at­ing fash­ion that tells a story and has cul­tural mean­ing,” ex­plains the Van­cou­ver-born Cree-Métis de­signer from the down­town Hamil­ton bou­tique she opened four years ago.

After her re­cent ap­point­ment as de­signer-in-res­i­dence at Ry­er­son School of Fash­ion, she is now get­ting a sub­stan­tial plat­form for her work. DeMon­tigny cre­ates con­tem­po­rary, luxe de­signs in leathers, suedes and fur; mod­ern sil­hou­ettes such as over­all cu­lottes and capelets that add edge to tra­di­tional ma­te­ri­als.

For her fall col­lec­tion, for ex­am­ple, she was in­spired by the re­la­tion­ship Indige­nous peo­ple have with the night sky, craft­ing an in­digo leather moto jacket em­broi­dered boldly with con­stel­la­tions and em­bla­zoned with “of the stars” in Cree across the back.

Her re­cent ap­point­ment as ITHACA, N.Y.—Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez’s shoes were made for walk­ing over all her New York City con­gres­sional dis­trict.

Now, the cam­paign footwear worn by the youngest woman ever elected to Congress will be part of an ex­hibit chron­i­cling how women use fash­ion for em­pow­er­ment in en­deav­ours such as pol­i­tics and civil rights.

The Cor­nell Cos­tume and Tex­tile Col­lec­tion at Cor­nell Univer­sity is launch­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled “Women Em­pow­ered: Fash­ions from the de­signer-in-res­i­dence won’t be her first foray into ed­u­ca­tion — she’s been un­of­fi­cially teach­ing peo­ple about cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion for years, an­swer­ing ques­tions such as “Can I wear this?” from nonIndige­nous cus­tomers.

“For the most part, peo­ple don’t want to of­fend. They think if it’s Indige­nous­made, they’re go­ing to get in trou­ble if they wear it,” she says. “They’re con­fus­ing the is­sue.”

The prob­lem, ex­plains DeMon­tigny, is the out­dated mis­con­cep­tion that Indige­nous fash­ion is “feather, fringes and beads.” Indige­nous de­sign­ers are of­ten met with closed doors from re­tail­ers who don’t un­der­stand their work.

As a lec­tur­ing pro­fes­sor and men­tor at Ry­er­son, DeMon­tigny is hop­ing to teach fash­ion stu­dents about Indige­nous de­sign, but also about the power of draw­ing on one’s own cul­ture and iden­tity.

“In­stead of Cana­dian de­sign­ers al­ways look­ing to what­ever the rest of the world is do­ing and be­ing di­rected by that, we need bring it back to our­selves,” she ex­plains. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez’s footwear will be part of a new art ex­hibit.


Among the high­lights are col­lars from Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg; a labour union cap from a cam­paign led by Cor­retta Scott King and a skirt suit worn by Janet Reno. “There’s power in be­ing unique and em­brac­ing your own cul­ture to set your­self apart,” says de­signer An­gela DeMon­tigny.

“It’s all about au­then­tic­ity: There’s power in be­ing unique and em­brac­ing your own cul­ture to set your­self


New ex­hibit to fea­ture em­pow­ered women’s cloth­ing and footwear

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