Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week returns on November 28 to December 2

Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week co-producers Joleen Mitton (R) and Pam Baker (L) have over 50 years of experience in the fashion industry combined. Photo credit: Brian Nguyen

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week (VIFW) returns to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Nov. 28 – Dec. 2, 2022 for its third edition, with the goal of rekindling joy in the face of grief. New collections from 32 Indigenous fashion designers from across Turtle Island (North America) will sashay the runway on models of First Nation / Métis / Inuit descent.

In between shows, guests can shop for gifts from Indigenous vendors and enjoy musical performances by The Wolfpack, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Soul Shakers, DJ O Show, DJ Kookum, and more. Full program and tickets are available at vifw.ca.

Red Dress Event. Photo Credit: Bryan Nguyen

“For the Indigenous community, the last two years has been marked by grief. We lost many cherished elders and the gruesome legacy of residential schools saturated everything, so we decided to focus this year’s VIFW on joy and celebration,” said Joleen Mitton, founder and co-producer of VIFW and All My Relations Indigenous Society, the nonprofit organization behind the event. “We hope that everyone who attends will feel festive to be in community, and see us triumphant. We’ve been here since time immemorial, and we’re still here.”

As in previous editions, VIFW launches its opening night with the Red Dress Event, hosted by Lorelei Williams, founder of Butterflies in Spirit. Guests are encouraged to wear red in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQ+ community. On Dec. 2, Van Vogue Jam, hosted by Indigenous leader Khelsilem Tl’aḵwasiḵ̓an Sxwchálten, closes VIFW with a vogue ball, featuring drag and catwalk battles for trophies, prizes, and glory.

From its inception in 2017, VIFW has proudly showcased contemporary Indigenous regalia that highlights awe-inspiring works of Indigenous artists and designers in the traditional Coast Salish territory. VIFW will feature a robust artisan market with 40 vendors selling jewelry, clothing, beauty products and other handcrafted goods, in time for the gift-giving holiday season.

“Promoting cultural appreciation and uplifting Indigenous designers on a global stage is at the heart of what motivates us at VIFW. It’s our duty to share our teachings to honour our ancestors, where we create a path towards understanding the designers. Our ways and art will not be lost,” said Himikalas, Pam Baker, Squamish / Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw fashion designer and co-producer of VIFW.

VIFW established the Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week Mentorship Program, which provides 16 Indigenous youth and young adults a path to meaningful, fulfilling employment in event production, over the course of eight weeks. Now in its second year, this employment training program enables mentees to connect with Indigenous culture and ceremony through fashion, in a way that breaks intergenerational trauma and cycles of disconnection, child welfare, internalized racism and loss of culture.

“Mentorship is important in our culture. I am so grateful that my mentor, Pam Baker, has joined me as co-producer this year. I am benefitting from her 30+ years of experience in the fashion industry, and in turn, I am honoured to continue paying-it-forward by formalizing our long-standing Mentorship Program,” said Mitton, who is of Plains Cree, French, and Scottish heritage. “Fashion is a particularly powerful way for young Indigenous people to connect and reconnect with their heritage. It’s healing for Indigenous youth and young adults to be part of creating something that is meaningful to them, while having the opportunity to build marketable job and life skills.”

This year, VIFW also formed the Wisdom Circle to support the development and maintenance of a culturally safe, respectful, and responsible planning process and event that centers equity by honouring Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh protocols. The Wisdom Circle is made up of Indigenous leaders from the three Nations. Members include Pam Baker; Alexis McDonald; Charlene Alec; Debra Sparrow; Kris Achie; Ruthe Alfred; and Maynard Johnny Jr, among others.

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