Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week returns this week for its second walk down the runway.
The week starts off Monday with a special event honouring murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls and members of the two-spirit community.
“This is not your typical fashion week,” said VIFW founder and producer Joleen Mitton.
The Red Dress Event at The Orpheum encourages attendees to wear red in honour of the missing and murdered to “join in solidarity by bearing witness to the pain and great loss our community has experienced while honouring, respecting and elevating Indigenous women, girls and the two-spirit community,” she said.
“With the release of the national inquiry’s final report and accompanying calls for justice earlier this year, we have been called upon to confront ongoing injustice and to craft a society rooted in respect, safety and dignity for all.”
Monday’s event will feature designers Debra Sparrow, Yolanda Skelton, Pam Baker and Evan Ducharme. In addition to fashion, it will also feature the Indigenous Makers Market, which will offer authentic Indigenous art and designs for sale throughout the week.
Initially started in 2017, VIFW is back this year after a one-year hiatus. Mitton said she needed to take a year off and is hoping to now make it an annual event.
All of the featured designers are Indigenous. As well, most of the models and production crew are recruited and trained through the Pacific Association of First Nations Women’s Mentor Me program. The program aims to empower Indigenous young people coming out of the foster care system and help them develop identity, relationships and skills for the future.
“The Mentor Me program teaches youth to be proud in their own skin and walk in their full identities,” Mitton said. “It’s empowering for Indigenous youth to see themselves represented in a truly beautiful and vibrant way.”
On Nov. 20, the runway will feature neon, denim and bold prints in streetwear and modern aesthetic with designs from Tyler Jacobs, Kelly Edzerza-Bapty, Alicia Stephens and Dusty LeGrande (Mobilize). On the final night on Nov. 21, established designers Angela DeMontigny, Sho Sho Esquiro, Erin Brillon, Karl Harris and Justin Lewis (Section 35) will close out the week with leather, graffiti and embroidery.
Both shows are at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
The week is about more than just seeing the latest from designers. Through fashion, music and art, VIFW aims to facilitate reconciliation and a deeper level of understanding between Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
“VIFW provides a framework for safe business practices, cultural appreciation, mentorship, diversity and inclusion in an industry that has copied, and at times, stolen Indigenous designs,” Mitton said. “We are here to uphold authentic Indigenous artistry and reclaim what is ours.”