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Section 35 creates T-shirts with an anti-colonial message

A Vancouver clothing company is challenging Indigenous stereotypes, shining a light on First Nation history, and poking fun at advertising one T-shirt design at a time.
Justin Louis and Andrew Kazakoff co-founded Section 35, a clothing company that creates T-shirts with an anti-colonialism message. (Anne Penman/CBC)
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A Vancouver clothing company is challenging Indigenous stereotypes, shining a light on First Nation history, and poking fun at advertising one T-shirt design at a time.

Section 35, started by Justin Lewis and Andrew Kazakoff, specializes in streetwear, making T-shirts, jackets, leggings and baseball hats.

"Section 35 is a reference to section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982, that protects and recognizes Indigenous and treaty rights in this country," said Lewis.

The first shirt the duo design featured the phrase "f--k colonialism" — and it was a hit.

"It's been really popular, so basically what we've been doing is ripping logos, kind of misappropriating logos … to push a message — an anti-colonial message," said Lewis.

In addition to creating their own designs, Section 35 also works with other artists.

Their most successful collaboration was their Kill Mascots Save The People collection, which featured the artwork of Santiago X. 
Section 35 created a collection called Kill Mascots Save The People, which featured art by SantiagoX. (CBC/Anne Penman)

"Back in the early days I had wanted to work with [Santiago X] because I bought some of his art, and he was all for it," said Lewis.

"Everything sold out the first weekend we dropped it," Lewis said. "That really put us on the map. People still request that stuff all the time."

Because there was so much demand for that line, the duo had to quickly streamline how they produced and shipped their clothing.

"How do we streamline our fulfillment process, so we don't have to take 50 packages to mailbox every day? We've managed to find something that works for us, so I think the future's bright," said Lewis.

Another reason for the company's success is that they have a lot of creative freedom to try out new designs, without having to deal with a middle man.

"We can produce all of the stuff in house, we don't have to outsource a lot of stuff, and we can develop products and designs and graphics and stuff right here in my shop," said Kazakoff, who owns True North Screen Printing in Vancouver.

The duo plans to continue to produce thought provoking clothing, with strong Indigenous messages.
One of their newest design makes reference to a Kendrick Lamar song, and brings attention to the legacy of residential schools. (Section 35 Website)

Their newest design was inspired by the Kendrick Lamar song, Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe.

"We just did one that's out right now, that says 'Priest don't kill my tribe,' and that obviously is a reference to … a Kendrick Lamar lyric," said Lewis.

"You think about the residential school era, the priests and the stuff that happened there. But also religion, and the influence that that's had on our communities," said Lewis.

"That was kind of my take on when I look at that kind of stuff and the influence and the division that it create in our community."