Young Mi'kmaq women learn to light up traditional dress

A group of young sewers in Potlotek First Nation is learning to use technology to enhance traditional Mi'kmaq regalia.

Workshop teaches Cape Breton girls and teens how to incorporate technology into wearable fashions

An example of regalia with LED lights at a wearable technology workshop in Potlotek. (Submitted by Cape Breton University's Island Wise project)

A group of young sewers in Potlotek First Nation is learning how to use technology to enhance traditional Mi'kmaq regalia.

At a workshop over the weekend, students worked with Cree designer Angel Aubichon, who has experimented with lighting up traditional clothing for the fashion runway.

She's created pieces intended to honour Indigenous women, including a commemorative regalia that uses LED lights and fibre optics to illuminate a fringe hanging from the dress's arms.

"So when you move you get the light going through the fringe," said Aubichon.

"I wanted to emphasize the light that a person carries … and the fringing is an important part of what we do. So I wanted to show the spirit that goes through the fringe and touches the Mother Earth, and shows the movement of women, and how graceful and elegant we can be."

A belt is outfitted with lights during a workshop in Potlotek. (Submitted by Cape Breton University's Island Wise project)

The weekend workshop was hosted by Potlotek Education and Cape Breton University as part of the Island Wise project at CBU, which offers science outreach education to young women in communities across Cape Breton.

Seven girls, aged 10 to 18, from the communities of Potlotek, N.S., Waycobah and Eskasoni took part.

The students used a product called StitchKit, which Aubichon describes as a "user-friendly tech" the students can install themselves.

"They seemed to really enjoy it," said Noelle Doucette, education director for Potlotek.

"One of the young girls [Joyce Julian], she actually ran home and got her regalia because we were working on regalia that my sewing group made. So she actually went home and got her own regalia and brought it down and she was able to light up her belt."

Girls take part in a wearable technology workshop in Potlotek First Nation. (Submitted by Cape Breton University's Island Wise project)

Joyce, 16, also added some lights to her shawl.

"It looks more eye-catching," she said.

Joyce and another of the workshop students plan to wear their newly illuminated regalia during a dance performance in Eskasoni on Canada Day.

"If I was in the audience watching two girls with light-up regalias I would probably want my regalia to be light-up too, because it's going to look really cool," she said.

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton