From streetwear to formal dresses, British Columbia is home to a diverse array of Indigenous designers who are sharing their art and culture through fashion. Small businesses often have to jostle for a place in the spotlight and since there is no shortage of talent in this province many people don't get the recognition they deserve. Lists of Indigenous Designers in Canada tend to focus on the big players in other provinces who are of course doing amazing work but it's important to recognize those closer to home too.
These are local B.C. Indigenous fashion designers, you should know about.
This Indigenous streetwear brand based in Vancouver (the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations) was founded by Nipisihkopahk designer and photographer Justin Louis in 2016. The pieces blend Louis' graphic and fashion design skills and reflect contemporary Indigenous style. Many of the T-shirts, hoodies, hats, and pants have anti-colonial messaging and Louis' goal is to promote Indigenous arts, culture, and lifestyle through clothing.
Totem Design House
Haida and Cree siblings Erin and Jesse Brillon have created a clothing line that re-imagines the traditional animal crests of the Northwest Coast Peoples without 'trinketizing' them. The screen-printed shirts, tank tops, and hoodies are sewn in Vancouver and have garnered attention for their blend of pop culture icons like Star Wars with Indigenous art. They have options that are playful and slightly nerdy and ones that are more traditional. Totem Design House also does jewellery, fine art prints, and homewares like throw pillows.
In 2016 actor Duane E. Howard wore Dorothy Grant's Eagle Raven tuxedo on the Oscars Red Carpet. The fashion designer and traditional Haida artist has a storefront in Tsawwassen and has received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian fashion. Currently, she has a beautiful collection of scarves and jackets but it's the stamped leather mobile bags that stand out right now as fitting into the modern street style aesthetic but embossed with Grant's signature “Healing Hands” logo.
Ay Lelum The Good House of Design is a family affair. Run by sisters Aunalee Boyd-Good and Sophia Seward-Good, who took over the legacy of their parents Snuneymuxw Hereditary Chief Dr. William Good and Sandra Moorhouse-Good, Ay Lelum translates Coast Salish art onto clothing. Their brother, artist and carver Joel Good, also contributes to the collection. Ay Lelum designs a mix of formal and everyday dresses, jackets, and shawls with the occasional top and they often show at Vancouver Fashion Week.
North Okanagan Apparel
This Indigenous co-owned apparel brand began during the pandemic and is run by a husband and wife team from Vernon. Their collection of casual hoodies and T-shirts is more reflective of the fun and slightly rugged outdoor culture here in B.C. and would be perfect for a camping or hiking trip. They also have a collection of baseball caps, toques, and beverage tumblers with their mountainous logo.