7 Labels to Know at This Year’s Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival

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The Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival—formerly named Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto—will be held later this week in Toronto showcasing new collections from some of the Native fashion scene’s leading names. From June 9 to 12, the biennial event will return to being in-person this year after being held virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic. IFA founder Sage Paul says this year will be better than ever. “Indigenous fashion is in a constant state of evolution and exploration rooted in culture, so audiences can expect to see the vibrancy and heritage of our cultures through a contemporary lens,” Paul says. “Something that is hard to put into words is the energy and spirit felt at the festival. There is nothing else like having your community come together to celebrate the incredible art and design of one another.”

Four runway shows will be held at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre Theatre, a new location chosen for its circular catwalk. “The circle is significant for most Indigenous cultures, so our runway is symbolic and a truly Indigenous experience of fashion to amplify and complement the programmed designers collections,” Paul says. (The First Nations’ medicine wheel teachings, for instance, revolve around that shape.)  

Each show will open with a musical act—including artists like Cris Derksen, Bear Fox, Tia Wood and Nyia—and feature a different group of artists that are divided by themes. For instance, the first evening’s showcase features avant-garde designers like Curtis Oland, Evan Ducharme, and Amy Malbeuf. “What excites me the most about designers from all four nights of the runway is how original they are from one to the other,” Paul says. “Some stand-out collections include Michel Dumont’s collection made mostly of cellophane, including looks in drag and for a person who uses a wheelchair.”

In addition to runway shows, the festival will also feature a shoppable marketplace filled with Indigenous-made goods, as well as a full roster of panel discussions (a highlight no doubt will be the conversation between artist Kent Monkman and activist Sarain Fox), and a special hide-tanning workshop. “I hope that sustaining a platform like IFA will maintain traditional practices that have been passed down,” Paul says. She adds that the festival’s intention has always been about serving Indigenous people first. “Creating a platform for Indigenous designers, that is led by Indigenous people, is hugely important. We have many culturally-nuanced approaches in how we produce a festival, create clothing, and wear it! I see IFA as a place of celebration and sovereignty for the community, the body, and the land.”



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