A force for change
Indigenous designer Angela DeMontigny is shaping the future of Canadian fashion
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The problem, explains DeMontigny, is the outdated misconception that Indigenous fashion is “feather, fringes and beads.”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