“The whole fashion industry has changed”: NWT designer helps train Indigenous artists

Fashion is no longer about catwalks and runways, says D’Arcy Moses, and that’s good news for up-and-coming Indigenous designers.

Moses, a Dene artist from the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation in the Northwest Territories, has spent more than 25 years building a reputation as a northern fashion designer.

Now he is preparing to lead a fashion residency at the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity in Alberta, where he will teach Indigenous textile artists how to design and make patterns for haute couture — high-end fashion.

It is part of a series of seven workshops planned over three years where he will pass on the decades of knowledge he has accumulated, alongside other traditional artisans and visiting elders.

“It means a lot…just being able to share knowledge – and I know there’s a lot of interest from First Nations in Canada and the United States who want to get into fashion,” he said. declared.

These future designers should know that the fashion industry isn’t what it used to be, Moses said – social media platforms and online sales have revolutionized a line of work famous for its dazzling fashion shows, its expensive magazines and collections.

In many ways, the industry is more accessible than ever.

“The whole fashion industry has changed,” he said. “Today it’s almost easier than it was many years ago…I would just encourage young people to use the tools at their disposal, which is the internet.”

Contemporary and traditional

Moses is entering his fourth year of full-time design at his store in Enterprise, Northwest Territories. Like many businesses, his business slowed early on in the pandemic, but he is now expanding the handbag side of his business.

He is also looking forward to getting back to tanning hides this spring.

“Most of them are from my family in Wrigley – there are lots of moose and [caribou]“, he said. His family drops off the animal skins they harvest at his doorstep as they walk through Enterprise, and there are a few that just need to be soaked, stretched and smoked.

He gets a lot of requests for moosehide purses and vests, he noted, from people who want that connection to their heritage.

“Now there is a whole upsurge of young people returning to traditional arts and crafts, but in a more contemporary way,” he said.

Haute couture

The first program Moses teaches at the Banff Center runs from March 7-26. Other sessions will involve vests, ribbon skirts, handbags and more.

Moses said he received a lot of interest from people to participate before the deadline passed this week.

In an email, Reneltta Arluk, director of Indigenous leadership at the center, said the intersection between traditional materials and processes and contemporary fashion is what makes the program important.

“[Moses] has been doing this expertly for many years and we are delighted to bring his skills in this committed way,” Arluk wrote.

Moses said it was important to note that the center offered scholarships to indigenous applicants to cover tuition, meals and accommodation.

“It’s just to attract the most people [as possible] involved in its entire process,” he said.

The Banff Center said there were 10 places in the program and all Indigenous participants would be offered full scholarships.

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