Red Road Clothing goes from fundraiser to family business for Winnipeg mother

What started a fundraiser to give her daughter an opportunity to see the world has turned into a full-time business for Winnipeg's Crissy Slater.

Crissy Slater says she can barely keep up with demand for her Indigenous-themed clothing

Crissy Slater proudly wears her design, Under the Moon, which honours missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (Submitted by Crissy Slater)

What started a fundraiser to give her daughter an opportunity to see the world has turned into a full-time business for Winnipeg's Crissy Slater.

She said with five kids, her budget is tight, so fundraising was the only way to send her 17-year-old daughter, Ariel Spence, on a grad trip to Italy.

"Growing up in poverty …my world was so tiny, it was so small," said Slater. "I just wanted to give her the opportunities that I didn't get when I was growing up."

So to open up her daughter's world, she created a design which she had put on T-shirts and hoodies, which she then sold through Facebook.

She said they sold out in a month, generating $20,000 in sales. 

"The community wanted to support [Ariel]," Slater said. "Her story went so far and reached so many people."

The design is called Berry Fast, and it represents Ariel's year-long journey participating in a womanhood ceremony, where she refrained from eating berries or receiving anything new.

"It's supposed to teach you empathy and how to give up something for another person, especially for when you become a mother," said Spence.

Ariel Spence proudly wears her design, Berry Fast, which honours her coming-of-age ceremony. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Slater said she wanted to honour her daughter's commitment to the ceremony with the design.

"Since Ariel was born, I say she's the one who has changed our family's dynamic.… She was the first one who started powwow dancing, she was the first one [to do] her berry fast," said the mother. 

'Everything we do is for our children'

She thought the clothing design was a one-time thing, but her friends and customers kept asking when she would release another.

That's how Red Road Clothing was born.

Now up to four designs, the most popular is called Under the Moon — a design which honours missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

On it are two women and two girls, which represents Slater, her two daughters and her sister.

"As a mother, everything we do is for our children. We just want them to have a good life, a better life," she said.

Slater has now quit her previous job and is focusing all her energy on the business. She said it's a family affair — her partner and children help her fill orders and make deliveries.

Mom is 'best role model ever'

Ariel Spence said she's learning a lot from her mom, like patience when it comes to watching her younger siblings, and perseverance to overcome challenges.

"She never shuts down," Spence said. "She knows how to examine a problem and then make solutions."

"I am trying to do that too for school.… I just got [on] the honour roll, and I've never gotten that through my entire high school or middle school years, so by learning that from her I learned how to overcome stuff in school."

Spence and Slater show off Red Road Clothing's latest design, called Northern Lights Woman. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Slater is in the process of incorporating the business and creating a website to fill orders from across the country.

She's also made Spence a 10 per cent owner of the company.

"I am so proud of my mom. She's, like, the best role model ever," said the teen. "I don't think I have any other role models besides her, because she just outshines everyone else."

Slater is currently working on the company's fifth design, which she hopes to have ready in time for Christmas.

How an Indigenous drawing inspired a new clothing business

5 years ago
Duration 1:59
Christine Slater wanted to give her daughter an opportunity she never had as a child, so she started a fundraiser. Now it's turned into much more, including a full-time business.


Jillian Taylor is the Executive Producer of News at CBC Manitoba. She started reporting in 2007 and spent more than a decade in the field before moving behind the scenes. Jillian's journalism career has focused on covering issues facing Indigenous people, specifically missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She is a born-and-raised Manitoban and a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation.