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Concept of 'Indigenous luxury' challenges fashion stereotypes

Angela DeMontigny's new fashion line includes a midnight blue leather jacket. On the back, the collection's name, "Of The Stars" is written in silvery white embroidery in Cree syllabics. For DeMontigny, that was important to include so people could see the language.
Angela DeMontigny in her Hamiliton shop, DeMontigny Boutique & Gallery. (Zoe Tennant )
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Angela DeMontigny's new fashion line includes a midnight blue leather jacket. On the back, the collection's name, "Of The Stars" is written in silvery white embroidery in Cree syllabics. For DeMontigny, that was important to include so people could see the language.

The Hamilton-based Cree/Métis designer's clothes have been met with international acclaim. Her collection showcased at London Fashion Week in the spring.

"It was so incredibly inspiring just to be there — to see so much exciting fashion, to see so many people from around the world, so many different cultures and languages, " DeMontigny said.

How her collection was received was better than she could've expected. She was praised for the imagery, the stories behind the pieces, the embroidery and the colours. It was described as edgy and authentic.
Cree syllabics on this midnight blue leather jacket spell out the collection's name, Of the Stars. (Zoe Tennant)

The inspiration for "Of The Stars" came from an Anishinaabe legend called The Daughters of the Seven Stars.

DeMontigny said the Greeks and Romans and other cultures have written about the Pleiades constellation that the legend talks about but not many have heard the Cree version. So she decided to bring it to light. 

"I also wanted to teach people about why we have a connection and a relationship with, not only the stars, but the sun and the moon," she said. "Many creation stories all have a connection where it says we come from the stars, so I wanted to tell people about that".
The storefront of Angela DeMontigny's Hamilton-based boutique. (Zoe Tennant)

Through her work, DeMontigny is also challenging stereotypes. One of them being that Indigenous clothing and high fashion aren't symbiotic. She said there's a misconception that Indigenous fashion isn't good quality, it's too traditional, or too costume-like with fringe, feathers and beads.

"It's not that fringe, feathers and beads is a bad thing," DeMontigny said with a laugh. "Because I actually utilize all of that in my collections. It's just how it's done, right? I'm trying to do it in a way that people haven't seen before so that it's elegant and sophisticated."

DeMontigny describes her work as "Indigenous luxury".
Inside the DeMontigny boutique. (Zoe Tennant)

"It's luxury on a different level. It's luxury in the materials. It's luxury in the timelessness of the pieces I create for people. It's luxury in the workmanship and the quality of how they're made. And also luxury in the authenticity of it and that it does have meaning. It has a foundation in my culture," she explained.

DeMontigny hopes that with the international attention she's received, opportunities for other Indigenous designers will follow.

"We're all in this together. We are not going to be able to crate a truly sustainable industry if we don't help each other," she said. "I hope to create visibility not only for myself and other designers, but for our amazingly gorgeous Indigenous models. You don't see them and that really has to change."