Sask. Indigenous fashion designer to debut on New York runway

Becki Bitternose is getting ready to take her locally inspired fashion designs to the runways in New York for Couture Fashion Week.

Becki Bitternose is bringing fashion from the George Gordon First Nation to the Big Apple

Fashion designer Becki Bitternose (right) plans to drive to New York with her family. (Courtesy Peter Scoular)

An Indigenous fashion designer from the George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan is getting ready to display her designs in the Big Apple.

Becki Bitternose is preparing for New York's Couture Fashion Week taking place at the beginning of September.

She was selected to attend in mid-spring, but said the news is still sinking in. The designer never imagined models would dress in her designs on a runway in New York. 

"I was shocked, I didn't know what to think," she said. "It was just shock."

The first design

Four years ago, Bitternose didn't have any experience with clothing design and had never even considered it. 

She had always admired the style and patterns of Pendleton jackets at local pow wows.

"I'd see these really beautiful Pendleton jackets and I always wanted one," she said. "They're so beautiful, and I could never afford one."
Katelyn Longman models one of Becki Bitternose's designs that will be showcased on the runway in New York. (Peter Scoular)

In the winter of 2013, she wondered if she could make one herself while looking at the Pendleton blankets her children had been given. 

"I thought you know what, I'm going to give it a shot." 

Bitternose used her daughter's winter jacket for reference and sketched out a pattern on the blanket. Four hours later, her child had a new coat.

That was the beginning of what would become a fashion career specialized in high-end Pendleton jackets. 

"I never set out to do designing. I never set out to do fashion," she said. 

"It was just something I wanted to try at home and just three years later I'm going to New York."

Bitternose now sells her designs to people across Canada. 

Creativity inspired by her Kokums

The designer credits her two Kokums for inspiring her.

When she was young, she would sit outside and watch her Kokums sew handmade blankets on the steps. 

"They would just sew and create such beautiful things," Bitternose said.

"I'm so thankful for my Kokums."

She also paid homage to her family by naming her line PlayBuffalo, which is derived from her family's traditional name.

New York's Couture Fashion Week runs September 9 to 11. Bitternose and her family plan to drive to New York so they can see the sights and cities along the way. 

This coat designed by Becki Bitternose was in a fashion show that ran with the theme of MMIW. (Courtesy Peter Scoular)

with files from CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition