June 25, 2012

NAFW12 | Review: Bringing First Nations Fashion to the Scene

This year marked an important historical event - the launching of the first ever National Aboriginal Fashion Week. Held in Regina, the two-day event kicked off on Thursday, June 21 (which was also, fittingly, National Aboriginal Day in Canada).

This is the first of two posts that reviews the event. This post is a positive one (you'll have to wait until tomorrow to read my more critical review).

The event was put together by Chelsa Reil, and she was an incredibly professional director and I hope she continues NAFW next year. You see, I ask a lot of questions, and, whether it was via email or text, she was prompt and responsive and helpful. I give her and her effort a huge thumbs up.

The event started late (more on that tomorrow), but once it got going, we were introduced to the host, Linsay Willier, and the first performer, Jacob Pratt. Pratt is a musician (a 'flautist,' in particular), and I really didn't know much about him before this event, but he is very talented, well-spoken and rather funny. We even got to meet Big Poppa:

Willier's humor kept the event afloat when it could have sank. For example, she had to step up and fill some down time in between designers, and she did an amazing job. I highly recommend Willier for future fashion events - she has great stage presence, she's positive, and I give her an A+ for her Rez Humor. The anties behind me were loving her.

After the hoop dancer, the show finally began. The first designer was Tracey George-Heese (Cree) who heads up Timeless Shadows. I always miss the first designer because I'm usually adjusting my camera settings to the models, lighting, and movement. One piece of Heese's collection really stood out for me though, and it was this stunning blue top:

After Heese, Danita Strawberry's collection hit the stage. I've seen Strawberry's work before and love her dresses. The silhouettes are contemporary and incredibly wearable (thank you!), the color palette for the collection was cohesive, and, of course, I love Strawberry's ability to bring Native American geometric designs into her garments in a classy and fun way.

She says she's working on a new collection that will debut at the Santa Fe Fashion Week in November. Taking inspiration from the southwest region's favorite stone, Strawberry's new collection will feature turquoise hues mixed with black, white and greys.

Next up was Haudenosaunee designer Bruno Henry. When Henry is at his absolute best, the designs knock your socks off, and make you want to get married just so you can wear that breathtaking white leather dress. That's Bruno Henry. When you match up the right model with the right Bruno Henry dress, you can almost picture what leather-based Native fashion would have looked like sans forced assimilation.

Next on the bill were the Lavallee fam and their cool Cree Nisga'a boots. I can't wait to own my first pair of Nisga'a boots. When they matched the white boots up with the black mini-skirts, the look was hot. I couldn't help but to think of all those girls who wear Ugg boots, and how much cooler their outfits would be if only they knew about Nisga'a.

Tim Lewis's Tansi tees always make me smile. They feature bright graphics on cool comfy chic tees, and promote Aboriginal language revitalization all at the same time. I love it.

Disa Tootoosis is one of my favorite First Nations designers. If I were a young aspiring designer, I would track her down so hard and bring her tobacco and ask to apprentice under her. Her garments are the perfect fusion of contemporary styles with bright powwow aesthetics. Even her simple dresses have a kinetic feel to them due to her keen selection of colors and fabrics. They just feel 'alive'.

The night ended with Cree designer Derek Jagodzinsky for his LUXX Ready-to-Wear collection. This is my first time seeing Jagodzinsky's work, and it was an absolute pleasure. Jagodzinsky put together a clean, sophisticated, and cohesive collection that played with golden hues for a nice FW 2012/13 line. It also helped that Jagodzinsky had the best Native models strut his clothes, including Ashley Callingbull, the Baker twins, and the host herself, Linsay Willier:


  1. Curious if any Hawaiian designers showed at fashion week?

  2. Not that I know of. Most (if not all) of them were First Nations designers living in Canada.