Indigenous

Cree designer creates wearable technology for annual event

Fashion designers from around the world will showcase innovative wearable technology this weekend in Calgary at the annual MakeFashion runway show and gala. And for the first time, the work of a First Nation designer will hit the runway.

'Our grandmothers were the original couture designers,' says Peepeekisis First Nation designer Angel Aubichon

Cree designer Angel Aubichon will have a garment featured in this year's MakeFashion runway show in Calgary. (Facebook)

Fashion designers from around the world will showcase innovative wearable technology this weekend in Calgary at the annual MakeFashion runway show and gala.

And for the first time since the event was launched in 2012, the work of a First Nation designer will hit the runway.

Cree designer Angel Aubichon, from Peepeekisis First Nation, Sask., will debut a dress called The Matriarch Speaks. It is a traditional First Nation dress that incorporates fibre optic cables in the fringe, which will synchronize with the heartbeat of the model.
A glimpse of Angel Aubichon's The Matriarch Speaks dress. The final version of dress will include wearable technology, including fringe that lights up with the beat of the model's heart. (Courtesy of MakeFashion)

Aubichon is new to creating wearable technology, and says the process of making the garment reminded her of what her ancestors would have gone through when making clothes.

"Our grandmothers were the original couture designers … they had to file down bone and sinew, and create the materials that they needed," said Aubichon.

"It was like bringing the ancient art of couture fashion into a modern context."

To create her garment, Aubichon made many of her textiles from scratch, using 3D printing and fibre optic cables. It was a challenge, but Aubichon says she is excited to use her new skills to create future garments.

The dress's name was inspired by Aubichon's Cree heritage, which is matriarchal — meaning communities were once run by women. 

Aubichon says she "listened to the voices of [her] grandmothers" when making the dress. She hopes it gives voice to the lineage of strong Cree women in her family who might not have been able to speak. 

"In a glamourous way, the garment is speaking without saying anything — telling a story with the visual," said Aubichon.

More First Nation designers needed

Aubichon is honoured to be the first First Nation designer included in the annual event, and says what she brings to the runway is an authentic voice.

"First Nation design is huge right now. It's been a trend for years and it doesn't seem to be going away," she said.

"Cultural appropriation happens way too often. We need to have that authentic voice telling our stories … I want to be one of the people who brings the authentic stories out."
MakeFashion pairs high-fashion designers with engineers, hackers, and makers to create functional wearables, such as these illuminated vintage outfits from the 2014 show. (Justin Poulsen)

The MakeFashion event will feature 40 designers from around the world and garments from China, India and the U.S.

Aubichon says that several designers featured in the event have more experience than she does in creating wearable technology, but that hasn't deterred her from continuing to incorporate technology in her future designs.

"I'm so pumped for MakeFashion [next year]. This year was just dipping my toes in a bit."

The MakeFashion Runway Show and gala is on April 1 at 8 p.m. MT at the Telus Spark Science Centre.

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