Nfld. & Labrador

Corner Brook teen shows Indigenous pride through new clothing line

"Show who you really are" is the slogan of a new clothing line called Indigenous Designs. The person behind it is a Mi'kmaq teenager who's proud of his culture and has big ideas for the future.

Mi'kmaq teenager in Corner Brook starts his own clothing line to express Indigenous pride

Zack Gillam proudly displays some of the clothing in his Indigenous Designs clothing line. (Bernice Hillier/CBC)

The slogan for a new clothing line based in Corner Brook isn't just a few catchy words.

Mi'kmaq teenager Zack Gillam says "Show who you really are" reflects his overall philosophy when he created the company, Indigenous Designs.

"Just to show I'm proud of who I am. I'm proud to be Indigenous," Gillam told the Corner Brook Morning Show.

Stitching together an idea

Gillam started the clothing line of hoodies, T-shirts and hats over the past eight months, after he attended an Indigenous business conference last fall at Cape Breton University.

Indigenous students from all across Canada were invited to come up with sample business ideas in a Dragon's Den-style competition.

Gillam drew a design that included a dreamcatcher and the letters "ID" as his group's business pitch.

Indigenous Designs clothing was developed by Gillam after he attended an Indigenous business conference at Cape Breton University last year. (Submitted)

At the end of the conference, he brought his design home and started doing business for real.

He got a graphic designer to digitize the image, and he began to take orders for clothing.

"The fact that I'm making Indigenous clothing that's hoodies, T-shirts, hats, just casual wear, it really grabs people's attention, because that is the trend nowadays," said Gillam.

Proud of his culture

Gillam, 17, has known all his life that he had Mi'kmaq ancestry, and he's grown up attending powwows and being proud to be Indigenous.

He knows it wasn't always this way, and he says his clothing line is yet another way for people to reclaim not only their Indigenous identity but also pride in their heritage.

"[Years ago], Mi'kmaq people and Indigenous people, they were ashamed. And not a lot of people would actually come out and say who they really were," said Gillam.

Not all customers are Indigenous

Times have changed and now even people with no Indigenous heritage are snapping up his clothing.

"A lot of people that aren't even Indigenous, they really love the whole concept of the logo, because the letters "ID" inside the dreamcatcher logo, it stands for identity," said Gillam.

Josh Penney models the original dreamcatcher design from Indigenous Designs clothing company. (Submitted)

"And it really grabs people's attention, the creativity that was involved in that."

So far, Gillam has been selling mostly to friends and online through his Indigenous Designs website, and he intends to have his clothing available for purchases at powwows this summer in Flat Bay and Conne River.

"It really allows me to express myself and have fun with my culture, share it, and just be happy and positive about the overall company and my culture," Gillam said.

Chasing his dream

Gillam will graduate from Corner Brook Regional High next month, and plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in business administration at Memorial University's Grenfell Campus.

"I believe that, if I keep determined and keep pushing with my product and with my company, I can make this a really big trending company and really spread awareness of the Indigenous people across the globe," said Gillam.

About the Author

Bernice Hillier is a host of CBC Newfoundland Morning, which airs weekday mornings across western and central Newfoundland, as well as southern Labrador.