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Vancouver's history-making Indigenous Fashion Week is back. Here's everything you need to know

The event celebrates Indigenous excellence and wellness through fashion.

In 2017, Cree model and manager of the All My Relations basketball team Joleen Mitton made history by founding the first-ever Indigenous Fashion Week in Canada.

For 66 years in Canada, it was illegal for Indigenous people to wear traditional regalia. VIFW introduced to the runway traditional beading, weaving, and leather work that reclaimed, remixed, or paid homage to Indigenous regalia, along with Native artisans, musicians, and youth in foster care as a form of celebration and resistance through fashion.

"Indigenous fashion expresses political, environmental, and economic statements of land, exchange, and ally-ship–showing how worn identity can build a connection with Indigenous values, wisdom, empowerment, and history," notes the event's press release.

Here's what to expect at VIFW 2022

Squamish and Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw fashion designer Himikalas Pamela Baker joins Mitton as a co-producer of VIFW this year along with 32 Indigenous designers who will showcase new collections on the runway.

In between shows, 40 Indigenous vendors and artisans such as Nuez Acres and Ay Lelum will have stalls set up in a fully shoppable marketplace and there will be musical performances by The Wolfpack, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Soul Shakers, DJ O Show and DJ Kookum.

The four days of the runway shows have different themes:

On Nov. 28, VIFW opens with the Red Dress event hosted by the founder of the Butterflies in Spirit dance group Lorelei Williams. Guests are encouraged to wear red in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

All My Relations (Nov. 29) where traditional practices meet contemporary aesthetics in pieces by emerging and established designers.

Indigenous Future (Nov. 30) sees the futurism artistic movement employed to tell contemporary stories and pop culture references but rooted in Indigenous perspective, ways of knowing, and joy. This evening looks at the intersection of Indigenous artistic practice to shape the future.

Spirit of the West Coast (Dec. 1) pays homage to the unceded land of xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations that the event takes place on and celebrates the signature artistry of the West Coast spirit.

The closing night of VIFW on Dec. 2 is The Supernatural Kiki Ball, a vogue ball featuring drag performances and catwalk battles.

VIFW wants the community to bear witness to Indigenous excellence and wellness

The first iteration of VIFW was inspired by Mitton's work with the Pacific Association of First Nations Women (PAFNW) Mentor Me program and many of the models were youth 14- to 25-year-olds from the program. Now after a two-year pandemic hiatus, VIFW is back with models and a production crew of Indigenous youth and young adults from the foster care system that received training and mentorship from VIFW's very own Mentorship Program.

“For the Indigenous community, the last two years have been marked by grief. 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,” says Mitton.

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

Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week

When: Nov. 28 - Dec. 2, 7 to 10 p.m.

Where: Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Cost: Each event is ticketed separately and priced on a sliding scale to remain accessible to the community. Buy tickets here.

With files from Elana Shepert.

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