Aboriginal fashion has become an Internet affair

By Todd Lamirande
APTN Investigates

Lisa Charleyboy has had a life-long love affair with fashion. It began when she spent a lot of time in libraries while growing up in suburban Vancouver.  She started checking out magazines with glossy covers filled with glamorous models.

“They had a lot of content that was really interesting,” Charleyboy recalls. “Talking about fashion designers, talking about dealing with some of the issues I might have been dealing with, like how do you deal with a ‘frenemy’.”

But there was a problem for her at the time as an Aboriginal teen.

“I never saw a reflection of myself within those magazines.”

So after six years of blogging about fashion and pop culture from a Native point of view, Charleyboy started Urban Native Magazine. It’s an online ‘zine that currently features stories about actress Cara Gee’s debut, an Anishinaabe woman’s passion for cooking and Charleyboy, herself, talking about Metis-owned Manitobah Mukluks.

It’s from this platform that Charleyboy has promoted the Aboriginal fashion industry. Just recently she began promoting a site called ShopIndigenous.ca.

It’s the brainchild of Saskatoon entrepreneur, Heather Abbey. It has 24 categories that artists can post their items in, everything from fashion and accessories to literature and music.

“I realized that there was an incredible opportunity for a website or something where these artisans could post what they make and sell them,” said Abbey.

Similar to ShopIndigenous is the American-based, Beyond Buckskin Boutique. It forms a part of Dr. Jessica Metcalfe’s Beyond Buckskin blog. She’s a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa in North Dakota. Metcalfe is a fashion scholar who sometimes writes about cultural appropriation.

She’s seen a trend for the past decade by the non-Native world of using what they think is Aboriginal fashion in their designs.

“And whenever we walk into Forever 21 or Urban Outfitters, or any major department store,” Dr. Metcalfe says, “we will see that quote, unquote Native inspiration in the collections, whether it’s Navajo print or some feathers or some fringe, it’s there.”

Hence the creation of the Beyond Buckskin Boutique, a place to purchase authentic fashion and accessories from a wide range of Native American artisans.

All the designers featured in the APTN Investigates episode Fashion Faux Pas have websites where authentic Aboriginal fashions can be browsed and bought—get your wallet out.

All of them have Facebook pages as well.

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