Indigenous fashion boutique opens in Saskatoon

A group of indigenous women is launching a fashion collective in the basement of Saskatoon's TwoTwenty building. Many of their creations are inspired by their Cree heritage and range from beaded high heels and sunglasses to lingerie and business attire.

First Nations women open collective workshop and retail space at The TwoTwenty

MaryLou Mintram, Helen Oro and Tory-Lynn Wanotch are some of the women behind Her 4 Directions, a new fashion collective on 20th St. in Saskatoon. (Leisha Grebinski/CBC)

As indigenous designs multiply on runways around the world, a group of First Nations women in Saskatoon see a big opportunity.

Devon Fiddler, Tory-Lynn Wanotch, Helen Oro and MaryLou Mintram launch Her 4 Directions today. They'll share the studio, retail space and workshop at The TwoTwenty, along 20th Street W.

"It was actually something that I saw growing up," said Helen Oro. "My grandma, my kokum, she would make her own mukluks, moccasins, do her own beadwork. Then she'd walk around town with me and sell them to the boutiques and retail stores."
MaryLou Mintram shows off a pair of sunglasses designed by Helen Oro. (Leisha Grebinski/CBC)

Specializing in beaded purses, high heels and accessories, Oro taught herself how to bead as an adult as she searched for ways to reconnect with her culture.

"I was feeling really lost for awhile in my life," said Oro. "That was my main reason why I got back into it. And then the whole fashion part and all the excitement, that kind of just came along with it."
Helen Oro holds one of the shoes she has designed. (Leisha Grebinski/CBC)

Mixing tradition with modern looks

MaryLou Mintram credits her background in fashion to growing up in Nelson House, Manitoba.

"There was only one store in the entire community and I'm like, 'Mom, Barbie needs more clothes,'" Mintram recalled. "And she's like, 'Well, make your own.'"

Mintram designed her first couture line by cutting up her mother's old clothes and doing bead and quill work. 

"I fell in love with it instantly," she said, describing her current designs for business women as a mix of northern Cree sensibilities and "more of a modest, conservative look."

"There's an amazing trend that's happening right now, it's very exciting to be an indigenous woman."


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