Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week (VIFW) was launched on 11 by founder Joleen Mitton to spotlight and support Indigenous fashion talent . Mitton, a Plains Cree model and co-founder of Indigenous modeling agency Supernaturals Modeling, wanted to create a place for these designers to showcase their work centered on their cultural stories and values. “VIFW is important to our local circular economy – where designers and artisans can connect with each other and their constituencies,” Mitton told Vogue. “It’s also important for Indigenous youth to see good role models so they can feel empowered to be creative; [to see] our culture, our traditions and our people are beautiful and worth celebrating.”
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, VIFW is making it back to the Canadian city this week, running until December 1st. “The past few years have been difficult for the Indigenous community, so I felt it was important to host VIFW in person and connect with people in real life,” Mitton said. Since the pandemic has disproportionately affected this population, Mitton said, The need to celebrate and elevate indigenous designers is crucial this season. “We also want to honor those who are no longer with us,” Mitton said.
Last night, VIFW kicked off with its signature red gown gala, with senior Indigenous designers were on hand Dorothy Grant and Yolonda Skelton, among others, presented garments that honored missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW), girls, LGBTQ+ and dual spiritual people. (Red has become a symbol of the MMIW movement.) This week, there will also be 11 local vendors participating in the shoppable marketplace, as well as fashion dedicated to West Coast design and the future of Indigenous doctrine exhibition. Streetwear brands such as Mobilize will demonstrate how Aboriginal traditions can be translated into modern clothing. “It’s important to show our Indigenous elders that we are thriving,” Mitton said.
To mark this week’s events, see Here are VIFW’s home-grown designers worth knowing.
2017 Photo: Courtesy of Mari Poland/Yolonda Skelton