A new Indigenous-owned clothing store will soon be opening up in Winnipeg, and its name and apparel is sure to draw plenty of attention.
The Indigenous Nations Clothing Apparel Company, or INAC for short, is opening a store in Manitoba’s largest mall, Polo Park.
Store owner Michelle Cameron says the shop is something that is long overdue.
“We felt that it was a need that was there. For me it’s really important that we’re represented in every way, shape or form. For me as an Indigenous person and pretty much all of my staff, there’s no place where you can go mainstream like in a mall where you can find Indigenous-inspired apparel, so I thought it was really important that we fill that need and open up a store in the mall,” Cameron said.
Customers can find apparel ranging from shirts and hoodies to accessories like wallets, facemasks and travel mugs.
INAC is a sister store of Cameron’s other business, Dreamcatcher Promotions, which makes promotional products like apparel and backpacks for conferences, businesses and organizations.
Cameron said challenges from the pandemic forced her to make changes to her original business model.
“During the pandemic we had to change the way we do business to cater to more of the retail side because things were closed, you know people weren’t having conferences, having events which is what we normally do mostly, so we’ve had to convert more to a retail component and I really wanted to focus on getting back to what we actually do at Dreamcatcher Promotions and I thought it would be really cool to come up with a retail store in the mall.”
Once a month, INAC will feature the work of Indigenous artists from across the country, which will be promoted through limited editions of fashion clothing.
The artists work will be featured on the clothing and their website along with a bio.
“We’re working with Indigenous artists and some of them are grassroots and love the exposure opportunity because we do have marketing plan for them as well to create exposure for their talents,” said store general manager Lance Scott.
“To bring it in such a visible place is really great and I think it applies to everyone, everyone can appreciate artwork, everybody can wear artwork and be a fan.”
The store will be constantly changing as new products and designs are featured, and the change in seasons will also see items like winter jackets be featured.
Cameron, from Peguis First Nation, said the idea behind the store name is meant to bring positivity around what is normally a negative subject.
“I wanted to come up with a name that was really cool, you know something trendy, kind of cheeky at the same time you know and INAC was always perceived as something negative and you know we wanted to take something, take it back and turn it into something positive so we turned it into Indigenous Nations Apparel Company,” she said.
Scott, from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in southern Manitoba, had nothing but praise for Cameron and the new store opening. He said she is someone that youth can look up to for inspiration.
“She’s an Indigenous leader, entrepreneur and I think that she should be celebrated for having the courage to take on such bold tasks and I think that’s something that is really important especially for our youth to see Indigenous people succeeding in business and that’s something that has really been underrepresented in the last, forever,” said Scott.
Cameron hopes other Indigenous entrepreneurs can look at what she’s done and feel empowered that they too can succeed, but not without hard work.
“It’s lots of work, but you know what if you have a passion of being a business owner or starting your own company, I would just say go for it. There’s so many organizations you can work with to start up your company,” she said.
“This is the reason INAC is here. I want to show the Indigenous youth, anybody Indigenous that you can do this you know, we’re 100 per cent Indigenous-owned company and we’re here in Polo Park mall. There’s never been an Indigenous owned store in Polo Park mall where you can get this type of apparel and giftware.”
The store is located in the Polo Park mall in Winnipeg and a soft launch is scheduled for June 28 with the grand opening June 30.