Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week returns to showcase excellence and resilience this month

Nov 7 2022, 7:38 pm

Indigenous fashion designers from across Turtle Island (North America) are coming to Vancouver this month for a huge artistic celebration as well as a rekindling of joy in the face of grief.

Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week (VIFW) takes place at Queen Elizabeth Theatre from Monday, November 28 to Friday, December 2.

The highly anticipated third edition of VIFW will feature live musical performances, an Indigenous artisan marketplace, and over 30 Indigenous designers with new collections on the runway. And tickets are on sale now.

“For the Indigenous community, the last two years have been marked by grief,” said Joleen Mitton, founder and co-producer of VIFW and All My Relations Indigenous Society, in a release. “We lost many cherished elders and the gruesome legacy of residential schools saturated everything, so we decided to focus this year’s VIFW on joy and celebration.

“We hope that everyone who attends will feel festive to be in the community and see us triumphant. We’ve been here since time immemorial, and we’re still here.”

Highlights of VIFW 2022 include the opening night Red Dress Event hosted by Lorelei Williams, founder of Butterflies in Spirit. Guests are encouraged to wear red in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week

VIFW Red Dress Event (Brian Nguyen/Submitted)

Another popular event is the closing party, Van Vogue Jam hosted by Indigenous leader Khelsilem Tl’aḵwasiḵ̓an Sxwchálten. The popular vogue ball features drag and catwalk battles for trophies, prizes, and glory.

VIFW will also host an artisan market with 40 vendors selling authentic, handcrafted goods. Shop for jewelry, clothing, beauty products, and more for your gift-giving needs.

And in between the runway shows and the holiday shopping, attendees will enjoy live music by The Wolfpack, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Soul Shakers, DJ O Show, DJ Kookum, and other acclaimed acts.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids

Snotty Nose Rez Kids/Instagram

“Promoting cultural appreciation and uplifting Indigenous designers on a global stage is at the heart of what motivates us at VIFW,” said Himikalas, Pam Baker, Squamish/Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw fashion designer and co-producer of VIFW. “It’s our duty to share our teachings to honour our ancestors, where we create a path towards understanding the designers. Our ways and art will not be lost.”

Organizers have also established the Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week Mentorship Program, which provides Indigenous youth and young adults a path to meaningful employment in event productions.

Now in its second year, the eight-week employment training program enables 16 mentees to connect with Indigenous culture and ceremony through fashion, with the goal of breaking intergenerational trauma and cycles of disconnection, child welfare, internalized racism, and loss of culture.

Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week

VIFW co-producers Pam Baker (left) and Joleen Mitton (Brian Nguyen/Submitted)

“Mentorship is important in our culture. I am so grateful that my mentor, Pam Baker, has joined me as co-producer this year,” added Mitton, who is of Plains Cree, French, and Scottish heritage. “I am benefitting from her over 30 years of experience in the fashion industry, and in turn, I am honoured to continue paying it forward by formalizing our long-standing Mentorship Program.

“Fashion is a particularly powerful way for young Indigenous people to connect and reconnect with their heritage. It’s healing for Indigenous youth and young adults to be part of creating something that is meaningful to them while having the opportunity to build marketable job and life skills.”

Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week 2022

When: November 28 to December 2, 2022
Time: Various times
Where: Queen Elizabeth Theatre –  650 Hamilton Street, Vancouver
Tickets: Various prices, purchase online

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