Northern Ont. News: Indigenous influencers headed to New York Fashion Week

An Indigenous fashion designer from Alberta is preparing to showcase culturally inspired clothing designs on an international stage and is inviting inspiring and influential Indigenous people from across Canada to model her creations.

Stephanie Crowchild makes custom coats using Pendleton blankets, Hudson’s Bay blankets and other items, in honor of her heritage as a woman of the Tsuu t’ina Nation.

Stephanie Crowchild sews a custom piece for Stephanie Eagletail Designs. She is creating a custom clothing line to show on a runway in New York in September and told CTV News she wants to represent all 11 Turtle Island Treaty territories.

To that end, Crowchild brings about 20 models with him, including three from Northeastern Ontario’s First Nations — fellow fashion designer Scott Wabano, model Emma Morrison and social media influencer Natalie Restul.

They are all people who Crowchild said are making a positive impact on their communities and who she believes deserve a bigger platform.

“They inspire me,” she said.

“For me, I see them as good role models in their communities, as well as for my children.”

To see more of Crowchild’s designs and her fashion week preparations, visit the Stephanie Eagletail Designs Facebook page or follow them on TikTok.

These are the stories behind the three people representing Treaty Nine at New York Fashion Week:

Emma Morrison

Profile of Miss World Canada contestant Emma Morrison from Chapleau Cree First Nation in Northern Ontario. (Pageant Group Canada)

Emma Morrison is a 22-year-old proud Mushkegowuk woman from Chapleau Cree First Nation, 200 kilometers west of Timmins.

After being invited to compete in Miss Northern Ontario and winning the 2017 pageant, Morrison became the first Indigenous woman to win Miss Teen Canada later that year and more recently the first Indigenous woman to win Miss World Canada in 2022.

Morrison now travels the country speaking to Indigenous youth about the importance of pursuing their passions and that coming from a small community shouldn’t hold them back.

“Regardless of your limitations and your environment, you can still achieve great things,” she said in an interview at an Indigenous youth gathering in Timmins

“I was taught that … it’s about opening that door for others to walk through. As such representation for indigenous people in areas where representation was lacking.

Morrison was drawn to Crowchild’s work because of the stories behind her artistry and how it honors her unique culture.

Morrison told CTV News she’s excited to join the rest of the list of influential Indigenous people Crowchild has assembled.

One of the other members of the list is no stranger to Morrison, Ashley Collingbull, who was the first Canadian and Indigenous woman to win the Miss Universe pageant in 2015 and was Morrison’s coach while she was competing for Miss Canada.

“I’m excited to come together again for this event where we celebrate Indigenous success,” she said.

For more on Morrison’s youth work and pageant success, follow her on Instagram.

Natalie Restoule

Natalie Restul is an Indigenous advocate and social media influencer from the Dokis First Nation who was recently crowned Miss Regional Canada. (Delivered)Restoule is an Anishinaabe Kwe from Dokis First Nation is the newly crowned Mrs. Regional Canada 2022.

Crowchild said Restoule has a passion and dedication to revitalizing Indigenous culture and has been an advocate for Indigenous issues.

Restoule has traveled to many communities to share valuable knowledge and stories.

Crowchild told Restoule that her life’s purpose is to educate and inspire others in her community and nation about healthy relationships; to himself and the rest of creation.

Even with over 100,000 followers on social media, Restoule strives to create a safe space to share and learn about Indigenous perspectives and domestic violence against women; overcoming these problems in his personal life.

Restule said on social media that her inner strength comes from the endurance of her ancestors, and she wants to share that strength with anyone who needs it.

“Never apologize for how deeply you feel. How deeply you love… When you have a heart of gold and your intentions are pure – you don’t lose anyone, people lose you,” Restul said in an Instagram post.

To see her work creating a safe online space, follow her on TikTok.

Scott Wabano

Scott Wabano, a fashion designer with a dual spirit, born in the Cree Nation of Waskaganish, in the Eyow Ischi region of northern Quebec and raised in the Los factory. (Delivered)A dual-spirit fashion designer born in the Cree Nation of Waskaganish, in the Eeyou Istchee region of northern Quebec, and raised in the Moose Factory, Scott Wabano is set to take the world stage at both New York Fashion Weeks this year.

In February, he got his own runway at New York Fashion Week to show clothes from his own sustainable and 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive clothing brand WABANO, with a team of six models.

Wabano, who uses the pronouns he and they interchangeably, will then model Crowchild’s designs in September.

Raised around ceremonies, Pow Wows and traditional gatherings, Wabano said he would design regalia, ceremonial wear, as well as Pow Wow and hunting gear.

They are often inspired by their grandparents who create crafts as well as other cultural projects.

“It was just a childhood of designing,” Wabano said during an interview at a local youth gathering in Timmins.

“Fashion just got intertwined with my culture and the way I was raised.”

Now his goal is to put local fashion in the spotlight, which he has succeeded in so far, being named Best Dressed by the Globe and Mail in 2022.

They said that authentic and honest representation of Indigenous people is excluded in the entertainment and fashion industries.

As someone who has experienced the degenerate effects of the residential school system and the disadvantages of living in a remote community, they believe it is extremely important for young Indigenous people to see themselves reflected in the wider society.

“I really believe that representation is a form of harm reduction,” Wabano said.

“When young people see Indigenous people thriving and doing well in their professional careers, it really gives them motivation and inspiration to bring that into their own lives.”

He said the local fashion community is tight-knit because of how few are able to make it in the industry

They all share their stories, their cultures and their artwork, often seeing themselves as collaborators rather than competitors.

“We’re here to help each other, lift each other up, support each other’s causes and … be proud of where we come from,” he said.

This is how he got in touch with Stephanie Crowchild, being a long-time follower of her art and drawing inspiration from her work.

Wabano said he especially loves her work educating communities across the country about the importance of local fashion and making it sustainable, which also fuels his own work.

Crowchild’s desire to be part of a community of local makers and provide platforms for exposure is what Wabano said makes this year’s New York Fashion Showcases even more meaningful.

He said her inclusion of various First Nations, Métis and Intuit communities helps to squash the notion of pan-Indigenism, meaning the lack of recognition of different communities and cultures, in favor of a simpler narrative that all Indigenous people are the same.

“We’re finally getting this platform where we can showcase our beautiful stories, our beautiful fashion, our beautiful people,” Wabano said.

“It really shows the beauty and diversity that is Indigenous.”

To see more of Wabano’s collection as they prepare for their fashion week debut, follow them on Instagram.

Looking forward to New York Fashion Week

Crowchild said everyone she invited to New York with her shared a vision of representing Indigenous people and promoting the distinct cultures of First Nations on Turtle Island.

She told CTV News that she hopes it will be an opportunity for everyone to learn about different communities and share knowledge and teachings.

“Each model will represent themselves and where they come from,” Crowchild said.

“They’re all going to represent (their) Treaty Territory and I think it’s going to be really amazing to see all the different different nations that I’m going to bring together.”

Crowchild said her goal is not only to get the industry to recognize the importance of local fashion, but also the diversity of culture and creativity within local communities.

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