‘It’s amazing’: Akwesasne designer Tasha Thompson shocked at response over corset at Avatar premiere

Tasha Thompson’s fully beaded corset rocked social media when Akwesasne actress Kiawentiio Tarbell was seen wearing it for the premiere of the remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Thompson said she was shocked at the response.

“I just thought that everybody could do what I’m doing, so I didn’t think it was anything special and then, so now with everything that’s going on with the event that just took place, with the corset, I didn’t think it would impact me or my community so much so it’s amazing,” she said.

Thompson completed the corset in a week and a half.  She collaborated with Kiawentiio on the corset design and with Metis artist Evan Ducharme, who designed the skirt.

“We corresponded, sent each others sketches and chitchats and colours and we just, we all like, formed a little friendship and just kept going back-and-forth and I never imagined it to work out so beautifully, like and I can’t take full credit for how beautiful it turned out because myself, the actress, we threw ideas back-and-forth and she kind of told me the concept of her character and was so, we kind of  went back-and-forth.”

Thompson has been perfecting her art since she was a child.  She said that she grew up beading and making her own pow wow outfits.

“I just wanted to bead, so bad, and I think I even harassed my mom like to teach me and she told me the basics and then so that’s how it started and then I remember even trying to do a simple rosette and I’d just get really mad and take it apart but I kept going,” she said.

Tasha Thompson
Thompson with the draft of the corset she designed. Photo: Annette Francis/APTN.

The notoriety came as no big surprise for Thompson’s daughter Naliyah Barnes, who is her mother’s side-kick.

“I feel like she was more surprised and I was more like ‘duh’ I feel like, I’m her confidant sometimes, but I was really excited when I heard she got the order and I was pretty much hyping her up and telling her she could do it.”

Naliyah beads as well, whenever her mom needs help, she’s there to support her.

“In terms of beading like, she’ll do the florals and stuff, and then, we call it the fill, where it’s just the same colour the whole time, that’s what I like to do, she likes the flowers and everything and I just do the tedious stuff, and sewing, I don’t sew very well, but I’m trying to, like, learn,” said Naliyah.

Their work has been seen on red carpets elsewhere too, from local fashion shows in Akwesasne to runways in Long Island, New York, and Cannes, France.

“I was really nervous about that too because I was teetering about more of a couture kind of style and I didn’t know if I had that in me, but I think France was a turning point to be like let’s keep going a little bit” said Thompson.

She plans to take time to rest and focus on where she would like to go from here, while Naliyah is looking forward to more fashion shows and one day in the future seeing her mother’s designs in Asia.

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