July 23, 2013

Sho Sho Esquiro | 2013 Collection

Our phone conversation began like most of our conversations: a quick dish about all the recent rad things that our Grammas said or did. While it might be common for Native American or First Nations designers to spend a lot of time with our grandparents, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it is probably not the case for most Canadian or American fashion designers.

For Kaska Dene and Cree fashion designer Sho Sho Esquiro however, lots of good quality Gramma time sits at the core of who she is as a person, and her recent collection (which she dubs her "Grown Up Collection") is clearly influenced by a sense of maturity and a reflection on the past. Traditional Dene and Cree beadwork, shellwork, and sealskin all find their way into her garments as elegant and thoughtful details.

Working from her home studio in New Westminster outside of Vancouver, Sho Sho presents a rich collection that in addition to being 'grown up' is nonetheless infused with her colorful urban edge that we've come to recognize as her design aesthetic. Romantic, the retro-inspired dresses come forward from decades past.

Sho Sho says she pushed herself in new directions with this collection. There's a lot of hand work details, such as the beadwork purse, the abalone necklined dress, or the lace over silk blouse. This was also her first time using sealskin. The pieces are fitted and tailored. At one point, she went two months with little sleep in order to complete the garments for a fashion show.

Sexy wide necklines balance the longer hemlines of her skirts, and fun accessories add character and edge to her ensembles. She also balances her fabulous and extravagant use of bold colors with subdued neutrals, and flirty and feminine skirts balance trouser pants.

She conducted quite a bit of research while preparing the garments, and the collection also gives small nods to Frida Kahlo and the Day of the Dead. Sho Sho explains that she thought of all the young people who recently passed away and wanted to honor them At the same time she wanted to celebrate the ones who supported her throughout the years. She liked the idea of the Day of the Dead celebrations and the idea of everyone coming back and partying for a day. "I wanted to do a tribute to them," she said, "because I miss them."

When it came to shoot the collection, she called upon our favorite photographer Thosh Collins and Native American models and hair and make-up assistants. It is important, she says, to collaborate with an all-Native crew when it comes to fashion shoots because it provides much-needed opportunities for a demographic that is largely underrepresented in this industry.

Sho Sho pushes for fashion to be viewed as another form of art, and as a part of this goal she displays her work at art venues and museums such as the National Gallery in Ottawa and the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. She will also be at Santa Fe Indian Market in August, and in a show at the Bill Reid Museum in September.

Woven cedar bark earrings pictured in the images above are by Haida/Kwakiutl artist Avis O'Brien. Click here to learn more about Sho Sho Esquiro.