Melrene Saloy’s love of fashion began as a child, making doll clothes after her grandmother and aunt taught her to sew.
Today, Saloy runs a business called Native Diva Creations, which manufactures jewelry and accessories appropriate to indigenous cultures. In September, she will take her beaded jewelry and accessories collection to her fashion week in Paris.
“Everyone I work with is indigenous. My hair, my makeup, my models, my photographer, they’re all indigenous,” she said.
Kainai Nation’s Blackfoot Designer, Saroj started his business almost eight years ago.
After going on maternity leave, she decided she didn’t want to go back to her job in retail management. So she founded Native Diva Creations and never looked back.
Saroj held her first fashion show in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2015, and models wore her designs on the runway at last year’s New York Fashion Week (NYFW).
“I was literally crying the whole time,” Saroj said of his experience at NYFW.
“It was so painful just sitting there because I was like, ‘Look at my culture. Look at what this is happening right now.'”
Saroj is one of several indigenous fashion designers to showcase their work on national and international runways. She was recruited to bring her designs to Paris through her nonprofit International Indigenous Fashion Week Inc. (IIFW).
The organization helps indigenous designers enter the mainstream fashion industry and connect with each other.
finally in the spotlight
Chelsa Racette, founder and executive director of IIFW, said she set up the organization to ensure that indigenous designers are in the spotlight and not sidelined at fashion shows.
“I was working on multiple fashion shows in the US and Canada, but there were only one or two indigenous designers, so I thought we needed our own fashion show,” he said. she said.
Since its founding in 2012, IIFW has brought indigenous designers to fashion shows across the country and around the world, including New York, Paris and London.
A Cree of Saskatchewan’s Necanite First Nation, Russet says one of her main goals at IIFW is to bring indigenous designers into mainstream fashion circles and network with other designers around the world. I said that.
“Indigenous designers have been around for a long time, and I think people are taking notice now,” she said.
We are not just beads and feathers..we are not just the ones you see in gift shops. We are, and many more.– Melrene Saloy, Blackfoot fashion designer
Saroj agrees. She said many non-Indigenous designers throughout history have appropriated Indigenous designs without permission.It is now time for Indigenous designers to be recognized for their work.
“Finally, there are enough artists and they’re like, ‘Look, I’m here. I’m here. I’ve been here forever. There’s so much I want to show you,'” she said.
“We’re not just beads and feathers. We’re not just powwows. We’re not just what you see in gift shops. We’re more than that.”
“Healing with threads”
Tsuut’ina Nation member Livia Manywounds brought a couture gown to the Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival in Toronto in June. That her experience of hers was memorable for her.
“It was one of those moments where I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m really here and I’m with top designers and indigenous designers. How am I here?'”
“Then when I look back on my story, I’m like, ‘Wow, I really put in a lot of work and time. It wasn’t easy for one person to make all these beautiful clothes.
Manywounds said he sees his path to fashion design as “healing with thread.” Her father passed away in 2016 and her mother was diagnosed with cancer the same day.
While sitting at his mother’s bedside, Manywounds started beading again. After her mother passed away, she continued with art as a form of healing.
According to Manywounds, her work started gaining popularity online through social media and she began receiving many orders. She credits the people who supported and purchased her early designs with helping her get to where she is today.
According to Manywounds, having indigenous designers showcase their designs on the runway is important for historical reasons, after the boarding school system tried to deprive indigenous communities of their culture, language, traditions and beliefs. is especially true.
“It’s not a costume. It’s more special than that. Because it has a meaning behind it. It has a purpose. It has a story.”
Many influential Indigenous designers have gone mainstream and put their designs on the red carpet. hope it will be opened.
As for Saroj, I hope that attending Paris Fashion Week will not only make her name known to international buyers, but also start a bigger conversation about indigenous designers.
“I want to open those doors so that other artists can get there and see more of the indigenous people.”