At Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, designs were used as a medium to make statements on many issues – in this case, land sovereignty and the relationship between people and the environment. (David Donnelly/CBC )

Some of the world’s top Indigenous designers brought their latest styles to the catwalk — and made bold cultural statements — at Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto.

The four-day inaugural event showcased some of the most distinct and innovative work of 23 Indigenous artists and designers from Canada, the U.S. and Greenland.

A live runway event each night was inspired by the traditional seasons of the moon. The first in the series, New Moon, created a platform for emerging indigenous designers.

Berry Moon’s designs were in celebration of summer and the pow wow season.

Frost Moon featured Inuk street style from Nunavut and Greenland.

The final runway night, Harvest Moon, was an inter-generational event honouring of matriarchs, with designs that recognized the vitality of traditional stories and teachings that have been passed on through generations.

Here are some memorable moments and images from Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto.

The event was more than a fashion show. The opening night kicked off with a musical performance by Cris Derksen, a young classically trained Cree cellist.

Beyond fashion

Besides performances like Derksen’s and the runway shows, Indigenous Fashion Week also featured a marketplace, workshops and panels.

Indigenous style

All the hair and make-up styles for the runway were inspired by a modern mix of traditional indigenous esthetics and style.

Crafted culture

The clothes and accessories incorporated and celebrated the rich cultural craft traditions of Indigenous life as contemporary fashion.

Traditional art

This ensemble was designed by British Columbia-based Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw designer Meghann O’Brien.

She adopts traditional art forms used in basket- weaving into her clothing designs.

Stories meet style

This design is by Yolonda Skelton, a textile artist from the Gitxsan Nation. Her work is inspired by her late grandmother’s oral stories, which Skelton draws on to create classic women’s-wear designs and silhouettes.

Making statements

Fashion was used as a medium to make statements on many Indigenous issues at the show.

In this case, the designer’s inspiration was land sovereignty and the relationship between people and the environment.

Women as warriors

Saskatchewan-based Dene designer Catherine Blackburn used concepts of traditional bead work to create futuristic “armour.”

“I see Indigenous women as warriors because of the constant battle it is to always prove something, to always try to break those stereotypical barriers that hold us back,” she says.


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