Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto kicks off with New Moon

Toronto's inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week kicked off Thursday featuring up and coming designers under the theme of New Moon.

Inaugural event's first night showcases new and upcoming Indigenous designers

Sage Paul is the artistic director and founder of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto. (Westend Studios)

The inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto kicked off Thursday evening, showcasing new and upcoming designers.

The entire event will take place over four days, each day culminating with a runway showcase inspired by the traditional phases of the moon. Thursday was dubbed New Moon.

"This is something that I've wanted to do since I was in college," said Sage Paul.

Lesley Hampton is a First Nations fashion designer based in Toronto who is showing her Fall/Winter 18 collection, 'Lithium,' at Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

Paul, who identifies as an urban Dene woman, is the artistic director and founder of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto.

"The goal of this fashion week is to redefine fashion where Indigenous voices and Indigenous representation is led by us," said Paul. 

"Generally speaking there's an image of a pan-Indian so by bringing together all of our various nations it allows for a very diverse, exciting celebration."

New Moon represents spring and birth — a fitting showcase for new works and emerging designers.

Toronto-based First Nations designer Lesley Hampton presented her latest collection "Lithium" which aims to break down the stigma around mental health.

"It's really exciting to be part of this," said Hampton.

Evan Ducharme is a Métis designer who grew up in St. Ambroise, Man., but is now based in Vancouver. (Justin Ducharme)

"A lot of the time big box stores appropriate Indigenous designs so this is kind of our rebellion to that, showing the authentic way to do these designs."

Diversity is a major theme of the Lesley Hampton brand both in the garments that she creates and the selection of models that Hampton uses.

Designer Evan Ducharme channels his Métis heritage in his latest collection, Atavism: Revisited, for practical fashion reminiscent of his upbringing. 

"It's great to be surrounded by so many Indigenous artists and Indigenous minds," said Ducharme. 

"We're all so incredibly diverse, the only thing our work has in common is our connection to our indigeneity.

The inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto kicked off with a 'New Moon' runway showcase. On opening day, CBC Indigenous spoke with the artistic director and designers about what makes this event so special. 1:54

"There's so many amazing events going on. It's rare that an event of this nature happens but it's an embarrassment of riches; we're just swimming in this amazing pool of Indigenous intellectual minds and artists." 

Over four days there will be 24 featured designers from Canada, the United States and Greenland showcasing their unique designs, textiles, and interpretations of Indigenous fashion. 

In addition to the runway shows, there are also workshops running through the afternoon each day where participants can learn skills like Navajo rug weaving. There's also an introductory beading class. 

Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto runs until Sunday, June 3 at the Brigantine Room, 235 Queen's Quay West. 

About the Author

Rhiannon Johnson

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation in South-Central Ontario. She wants to contribute to turning the page on how Indigenous peoples are covered within Canadian media.