A Toronto fashion incubator for Indigenous artists is partnering with Ikea to launch a collection of kitchen accessories that reflect traditional ideas about conserving resources and feasting.
Beginning June 8th, shoppers at Ikea's Etobicoke location can purchase one of four handmade products made entirely from salvaged textiles by Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator.
The products are made of Ikea textiles like bedsheets and curtains that would have otherwise been tossed, and include an apron, tea towels, a basket, and a small bag.
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"In our culture, if you go hunting, we would use all parts of the animals, and we just kind of took those ideas into the kitchen. So we made all items that you can use for kitchen, food preparation, feasting," explained Setsuné co-founder Sage Paul in an appearance on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.
Paul said working with a large corporation like Ikea was a "really positive experience," though the group had some concerns going in.
"We went in with our guard up because of cultural appropriation and exploiting Indigenous people and Indigenous women specifically," she said.
Wary of being asked to create pieces that leaned on stereotypes, for example, using textiles that show dreamcatchers or feathers, Paul said they chose to be "very upfront about it, we were very open about saying that there are certain things we don't want to see in the collection."
Fortunately, they found Ikea leadership open and respectful, and Paul walked away with the strong impression that they "wanted to do this right" — right down to discussions about acknowledging Indigenous land and incorporating native languages into the product launch.
Setsuné has other irons in the fire as well: in just under a year, they hope to host Toronto's first Indigenous Fashion Week.
Paul said she's pleased with the positive momentum she sees in the incubator.
"I think it's important to be active… There's so much fight-fight-fight all the time but I like that we're taking action."