Dene fashion designer shows her work at international event in Montreal

Tishna Marlowe is said to be the first Indigenous designer to participate in the Cosmopolitan Fashion Week in Montreal.

Tishna Marlowe said to be 1st Indigenous fashion designer to present at the weeklong show

Designer Tishna Marlowe, right, at Cosmopolitan Fashion Week in Montreal with model Anna Pri. Marlowe was the first Indigenous designer to present her work at the show. (Luca Jorry photo/Cosmopolitan Fashion Week)

A Chipewyan Dene fashion designer originally from Lutselk'e, N.W.T., recently saw her creations on an international catwalk.

Tishna Marlowe was in Montreal for the Cosmopolitan Fashion Week show at the start of November. Marlowe, who show organizers say is the first Indigenous designer to participate in the show, said we are witnessing an Indigenous renaissance.

"The world is watching us. They want to hear our music, they want to see our art."

This wasn't the first time Marlowe was invited to participate — she said she's been invited before, more than once, but this was the first time she could accept.

Marlowe said that although her designs are well-known around the country, this was the first opportunity for her to show her work on an international stage with designers from Colombia, Egypt, France and elsewhere.

"I felt like, 'Wow!' — really honoured and valued, and respected for my art."

Marlowe said the experience was unsettling at first. When she saw clothing by other fashion designers, she didn't feel like here clothing was "up to par,"  but she said she's been getting great feedback. 

Fashion 'needs to come forward'

Marlowe's designs included fringe coats, wedding wear, a moosehide couture gown and lots of beading.

A model wears a dress designed by Tishna Marlowe. (Submitted by Tishna Marlowe)

She said she learned how to create clothing from women in the North, but felt she needed to improve her technical skills. So while balancing her career and motherhood, Marlowe also made the decision to go to school.

"If you really love what you do, you will do anything to fulfil your dreams."

She's studying apparel technology at Olds College in Calgary to learn different techniques "so I can create more beautiful, more tailored garments for my new line."

She said every fashion show she attends, whether it's an audience of 10 people or a thousand, she hopes people leave feeling inspired.

Marlowe said although Indigenous designers have been making designer clothing for years, it's only recently that there has been a spotlight on their work.

But Marlowe said more could be done to increase the profile of Indigenous designers and artists.

"For some reason fashion has been put on the back burner and it needs to come forward," she said.

"We need to have more events in the North and we need to have more platforms for indigenous women all over the Northwest Territories."

Marlowe is aiming for a new clothing line once she's completed school in April.

After that, her goal is to show her work in Paris.

Four models wear red to represent missing and murdered Indigenous women at a show at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Museum in Yellowknife. (Kayla Rosen/CBC)

Written by Mackenzie Scott, with files from Lawrence Nayally