Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week

A Dream Becomes a Reality

Rumour has it that Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week has been nine years in the making. That’s a long time to have a dream, and Joleen Mitton, the brain child behind it, finally realized that dream this year with the support of an amazing team. I had the opportunity to chat with Linnea Dick (Community Outreach for VIFW) before the show and got a sneak peak into what went into the four-day event. Team meetings happened in whoever’s living room was free. Organizers worked from different locations, and when the team came together they would bring many visions into one. A few months before the big event, Linnea lost her father, the famous artist Beau Dick, and had to unexpectedly take a step back for awhile.

VIFW: A Class Act

I would have guessed none of this by watching the two days of the event that I attended. The event came across as professional and classy but with an honest and authentic First Nations’ vibe. The models were not only pulled together and great at their job, but they also exhibited more personality than dieting skills. From pregnant bellies, to full on howling on the runway, these models embodied confidence. I was enthralled.

However, I think my favourite part was the finale for each designer, when all the models would parade past, followed by the designer, arm-in-arm with one or two of the models in their most elaborate outfits. It could have been straight off the runway in Paris, and in fact, one of the designers has had her designs on the runway in Paris. Sho Sho Esquiro on night four, was a crowd favourite judging by the standing ovation and roars from the crowd.

A Piece of Home

It seems I always find a piece of home at these events and Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week was no exception. My first night there was red dress entrance to honour the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada. I sauntered up to the end of the line and was about to compliment the lady ahead of me on her red scarf. At the same moment, one of her group turned to me and said she liked my red dress. We struck up a conversation about where everyone was from, and discovered they were from Hazelton too and the older sisters of someone I had worked for in Hazelton. It is such a small world and the more often this happens, the less I ever feel alone. Connections are just a “hello” away.

The following night I discovered why these ladies were at Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week. Their niece, Yolonda Skelton, was one of the designers (possibly my favourite) and they were the first to jump up and give her a standing ovation as she and her models paraded past in the finale.

Bill Reid Makes an Appearance

A nice surprise on night three, was the announcement that an armoured car had arrived outside the building to deliver some Bill Reid pieces from the Bill Reid Gallery to be paraded down the runway by the lucky models! What a treat! I imagined what it must be like to be the model, having a giant piece of gold hanging around your neck for twenty minutes. I also imagined security guards on either side of the exit, ready to take each of her arms and immediately pull the necklace off and into a safe. Perhaps it wasn’t quite so dramatic, but when you’re all amped up on beautiful fashion, anything is possible!

Until Next Year …

The first night my feet were killing me from the insane shoes I had worn and the standing-room-only area I was in. The second night, my 40-year-old legs were cramping from sitting at the front of the media pit (no complaints there though; I felt like a pretty big deal!), but I hardly noticed. I would do it all over again. Next time though, I will go to each and every day of Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week. I predict this will become a not-to-be-missed event in years to come and I hope it will inspire young indigenous fashion designers to shoot for the stars.


My Red Dress on Night Three


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Verl Ferguson says:

    I am so happy to be thee for the Missing Women of Canada, and to support my granddaughter with her first time modelling. I would attend again and again. All My Relations Verl Ferguson

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Big City Art says:

      Hi Verl, I agree, I am definitely planning to go again! Growing up on the Highway of Tears has made the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women issue one that is close to my heart and I’m glad that was linked to the Fashion Week. I am surprised to hear that any of the models were modelling for the first time! They did such an amazing job 🙂 Which one was your granddaughter?


  2. Stella says:

    Hazelton! From which matrilineal family of this young designer?


    1. Big City Art says:

      Hi Stella, I believe Yolonda’s (the designer) maternal grandmother was Lily Jackson.


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