Toronto-based designer to present 'Lithium' collection at Indigenous Fashion Week

To support friends with bipolar disorder, Lesley Hampton uses changes in colour and pattern in her collection aims to break down the stigma around mental health.

Lesley Hampton's Fall/Winter collection aimed at supporting friends facing mental health challenges

Lesley Hampton is a First Nations fashion designer based in Toronto who will be showing her Fall/Winter 18 collection, 'Lithium' at the Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto at the end of this month. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

An attempt at a hand-made teddy bear when she was four was Lesley Hampton's first attempt at sewing.

Since then the 23-year-old First Nations designer has been honing her sewing skills, moving gradually from hand-sewn pyjama pants to glamorous gowns and dresses.

"I try to make each garment very specific to the storyline that I'm trying to tell, whether it be with a design or with the colours of the collection," said Hampton.

"I want to have the audience take away an emotion or a story with the work."

This year Hampton is one of 24 featured designers included in Toronto's first Indigenous Fashion Week.

Hampton is from the Temagami First Nation in northern Ontario, although she travelled a lot internationally as a child.

Her travel experiences have informed and inspired her designs, but they also meant she didn't connect with her Indigenous culture during that time.

Hampton's collection was inspired by bipolar disorder and shows a range of emotion through colours and textures. Bright colours and eccentric patterns are meant to represent the manic aspect of the disorder. (Ted Belton)

"I like to see myself as a fashion designer that is also First Nation, as opposed to someone who kind of uses that as a basis of my work," she said. 

After moving back to Canada she began to reconnect with her culture.

"I enjoy using my collections, too, as a basis for research for any Indigenous teachings or or just learning about myself as a whole," she said.

Range of colours to express emotion

Her latest collection for the Fall/Winter 2018 season is called Lithium and is aimed at breaking down the stigma around mental health, specifically inspired by bipolar disorder, which affects some of her friends.

The collection begins with vibrant eccentric colours to represent the mania aspect of bipolar, said Hampton. As the show progresses, the colours become gradually darker before finishing with silver reflective materials that represent the medication the collection is named after.

Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto runs May 31- June 3. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

"I wanted to have a collection that shows you can be successful with mental health [issues] and you can even be a model or be in this industry and it doesn't impede you," she said. 

"It doesn't make you any less successful, if you are struggling with that battle that may not be seen every day."

The first Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto will take place May 31 to June 3.