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Indigenous designers, models making their mark at fashion week

Influencers are adding a Northern flare to New York Fashion Week

New York Fashion Week events this year will have a Northern Ontario flare to them.

Indigenous influencers, designers and models will be strutting their stuff on the catwalks of New York City this February and September.

Scott Wabano, who grew up in Moose Factory and is a member of the Cree nation of Waskaganish, is showing his new collection on Feb. 10. He made sure that organizers knew how important community was to him and that their presence is necessary.

“There’s such a focus on influencers and how many followers do you have, and I made sure the organizers knew that some of the most influential people in our communities aren’t even on social media,” he said. “They gifted VIP tickets to chiefs in my region, and I really wanted them to be there instead of the usual celebrities and influencers.”

Wabano is thrilled to be able to show other two-spirit people that they can achieve anything, and this opportunity lets him do that on a world stage.

“It’s been very exclusive, especially with the big brands, but the cool thing is that we’ve partnered with Runway Seven,” said Wabano. “They’ve really focused on community, and being an Indigenous designer, for me, community is everything.”

Wabano will also be gracing the catwalk in September, alongside Miss World Canada, Emma Morrison and influencer Nathalie Restoule for Stephanie Crowchild’s collection.

SEE: Two-spirit people have 'always been here', says influencer

“I really look up to Stephanie and the community work she does,” said Wabano. “I let her know if there was anything she needed, to hit me up, and she said she was looking for models and she wanted me to model for her.”

Celebrating the culture that Crowchild puts into her work is going to be a great time, said Morrison.

“I still can’t believe that I have this opportunity, it’s going to be super exciting," she said.

Crowchild is from Tsuu T’ina in Treaty 7, near Calgary, Alta., and has filled her show with fellow Indigenous creators and models, saying that she wants to represent all 11 Treaties across Canada.

Morrison got involved in the project through Ashley Callingbull, another model for Crowchild’s show. Morrison is looking forward to working with her again, as Callingbull was a mentor for her through her pageantry experiences.

“I’m really looking forward to reuniting with Ashley after talking for months on the phone when getting ready for the pageant,” said Morrison.

SEE: First Indigenous woman crowned Miss World Canada

Both Wabano and Morrison recently attended the Mushkegowuk youth conference in Timmins and said opportunities like New York Fashion Week let them show young people in northern communities that, if you have a passion, you can achieve anything.

“It’s a theme we touch a lot on, and I love my small little town, but if you continue to push through your comfort zone, the doors that open for you can lead anywhere,” said Morrison, who is a member of the Chapleau First Nation. “It’s just to say that we’re a reflection of the youth, we’re all handed different cards, but if you have passion and drive, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.”

Wabano said that the growth he sees in Indigenous youth and their confidence is one of the reasons he is grateful to be out at events like fashion week and representing his community.

“Meeting all the youth from Mushkegowuk region, and hearing their stories about how they became comfortable with being two-spirit and reconnecting with their culture, and even youth that want to pursue fashion,” said Wabano. “Indigenous representation is a form of harm reduction, and it really does help Indigenous youth feel heard and feel seen.”

Morrison said the excitement of such a big event is already building.

“Everyone hears about New York fashion week and the glamour involved,” said Morrison. “I’m just really excited to see all the Indigenous work and celebrating Indigenous achievement and success at such an incredible event.”

Amanda Rabski-McColl, LJI Reporter

About the Author: Amanda Rabski-McColl, LJI Reporter

Amanda Rabski-McColl is a Diversity Reporter under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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