February 20, 2024

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The Lesley Hampton Collection | Image credit: Ted Belton

Values-Based Innovation Indigenous Entrepreneurship is a forty-hour workshop for Indigenous women, two-spirit and non-binary creators working in fashion, textile and craft. The five-day program caters to turning creative practices into freelance businesses. It supports Indigenous creators to work with others to generate new revenues, audiences and methods of creative production. Their work signifies the impact and values of their community, craft and nation. The approach involves design and supports space for ideas to emerge and for new work to happen. The result of the program involves participants finding new markets both domestically and globally; developing new approaches to building their business while applying learned lessons from authentic case studies; applying a structured approach to developing partnerships; and to incorporate both the creative and business sides of fashion work as platforms which can embody cultural values. This program was made possible through the generous contributions from partners at Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, Shopify and Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Employment and Training. The lead facilitators include Sage Paul, founder of IFWTO; Kerry Swanson, development director, along side Nikki Cajucom- coordinator of Launchpad programs, with additional guest facilitators who lead focused sessions on topics such as marketing, finances and storytelling.

These trailblazers are focused on making an impact for their communities and strive to push boundaries within the fashion industry for representation of Indigenous design and entrepreneurship. Their artistry reflects their cultural stories and personal and aesthetic identities. From utilizing traditional motifs to ground-breaking contemporary interpretations, here are some new visionaries that you should look out for in 2019:

From the Lesley Hampton Collection | Image credit: Ted Belton


Growing up Lesley Hampton was constantly relocating; she was truly a ‘third culture kid’; raised in a culture separated from her own cultural ancestry. Her early years were spent in Canada’s Arctic and Atlantic, Australia, England, Indonesia, and New Caledonia. Hampton defines herself by her Anishinaabe and Mohawk heritage and peripatetic upbringing. Some of her experiences include being adopted and attending an international school, boarding school, and many cross-cultural occurrences.

Born in 1994, Hampton’s recognition of the fashion industry and its socio-cultural concepts quickly turned into a passion. It helped to define her identity and reconnect with her Indigenous roots. LESLEY HAMPTON’s inaugural collection in 2016, created during her first semester of fashion school was featured in Vogue UK, Glamour UK and print editorials such as CHLOE magazine FW16. Her brand continued to flourish with success upon graduation with international features in Marie Claire, ELLE UK, Teen Vogue, FOX, CBC, ETalk, Vogue Italia, Flare, Allure, and Yahoo Style. Her creations have been worn on the red carpet by celebrities such as: Penny Oleksiak, Dragonette, Sarah Fisher, Margaret Trudeau, Serena Ryder, Dani Kind and industry leaders such as Ashley Graham, and Christian Siriano.

Lesley received her International Baccalaureate Diploma from ACS Hillingdon International School in London England, Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Toronto and Sheridan College, with a speciality in Art Studio and Art history, and Ontario College Diploma in Fashion Techniques and Design Diploma from George Brown College. The LESLEY HAMPTON label was founded on the principles of inclusivity, identity, awareness, and heritage. Her artistry focuses on garments of strength that enable greater self-confidence, self-identification, empowering everybody type, size and includes mental health awareness. Diversity is the core of every piece created by LESLEY HAMPTON; which also evolve on the runway through interaction with the models who are carefully selected based on personality, age range and array of sizes. Lesley’s specialisation include elegant evening gowns, womenswear, athleisure and a range of stylish accessories which are created for her Wolfpack community. The mission for the Wolfpack is that they take pride in empowering the community, donating portions of profits, and continuously supporting Indigenous communities and mental wellness platforms.

IG: lesleyhampton
Website: lesleyhampton.com

Headshot of Evelyn Pakinewatik | Image source: Evelyn Pakinewatik


From Nipissing First Nation, Evelyn Pakinewatik is an emerging artist who practices in film, visual arts, arts education, and writing. Of Ojibwe and Irish ancestry, Evelyn co-administrates the Chinimiwin Collective. Their work with Chinimiwin includes teaching traditional textile arts and contemporary visual culture in Indigenous communities alongside their parents, which they have done since childhood. Recently, Evelyn began pursuing film as a way to combat memory loss, a long-term effect of chronic illness. Their first experimental short Heartdream (2017) explored the connection of love and the land through the lens of their own fragmented memory. Their first documentary Emerge: Stone Braids (2018), which premiered at ImagineNative 2018, chronicles the memories of cherished friends and loved ones during the first annual Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto. Finally, Evelyn’s first narrative short, WAASEYAA (2018), also premiered at ImagineNative 2018, examines concepts of unconditional love, shared memories, song, and healing on one’s own terms. Evelyn’s future works mainly explore the horror genre, however they are also in the process of producing a feature-length documentary about their parents’ art practice. Evelyn looks forward to the opportunity of documenting and presenting at IFWTO 2020.

Website: chinimiwin.com/
IG: chinimiwin

Jewellery from Skye Paul | Image credit: Skye Paul


Skye Paul is a Toronto based artist, mother and entrepreneur that established Running Fox Beads inspired by her first-born son. Her beadwork, illustration and design re-claim her cultural practice. Skye’s influences include her Setsune, Catherine (Grandmother in Dene), the environment , her community, current fashion trends that her additional pop sensibilities. From handcrafted designs such as cedar and sweetgrass to the infamous “Skoden” to a heart shaped “Myself” beaded patch. The colours are specifically selected to integrate a flow of layouts with vivid to attractive minimalistic colours.

IG: runningfoxbeads
Website: www.runningfoxbeads.com


Jean Marshall is of Anishinaabe and English descent and is from Thunder Bay, Ontario. Her community is Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation also known as Big Trout Lake. She currently resides along the shore of Lake Superior on Fort William First Nation, Ontario. Beadwork is embedded into Marshall’s work; which she showcases on a variety of items such as moccasins, mitts, earrings, hair barrettes and scissor cases. He work promotes a healthy lifestyle and the enjoyment of being around creative people in a positive space with great connectivity. Her colourful yet detailed beadwork also includes an array of quillwork, hand-woven birchbark wigwas contains an inspiration by land, her people and the daily patterns she sees in her community.

Marshall’s work has been supported by Ontario Arts Council (OAC), Aboriginal Arts in Education, Individual Craft, Northern Arts and Exhibition Assistance; and she was also a recipient of the K.M Hunter Award in 2012 and the REVEAL Hnatyshyn award in 2016. Marshall earned a BA Honours in Native Studies from Trent University in 2000. She is in the process of establishing an online store to have a space to showcase her works, teach workshops, and share knowledge.

Website: jeanmarshall.ca
Contact: marshall.childforever@gmail.com


Gesig Isaac is a young Mi’gmaq, queer multidisciplinary artist that resides in both her ancestral homeland of Mi’gma’gi and Tkaronto. Isaac graduated from New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, attended Penland School of Craft in North Carolina and is enrolled at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Isaac participated in the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity residences in 2018: ‘Outdoor School’ with, and the ‘Urban Moose Hide Tanning Residency’. Gesig’s art practice explores themes of language retention, ecology, and land-based knowledge. This material based artistic practice centers around basket weaving, textiles, hide tanning, silversmithing and ceramics. Her latest work involves paper casting and papermaking using cotton liners and the natural pigment ochre. This handmade paper was pressed onto reclaimed baskets the artist found exploring antique stores. Gesig reactivates the seemingly fragile baskets beautifully interwoven with life and memory. A collaborative future project with fellow artist Jamie Ross includes two exhibitions in 2019 entitled “Future Toxic’. It was inspired by the often times overlooked, violent and ongoing legacy of the Canadian Railway and its founder William Van Horne and involves contemporary Pagan plant rituals with an Indigenous plant knowledge framework. Future Toxic evokes the historiographies of Indigenous peoples and their relationship with nature, plants and the environment and the ways it affects our present.

IG: migmuessu
Contact: gesigisaac@gmail.com

Brianna Olson featuring her custom beadwork| Image credit: Brianna Olson


Brianna Olson Pitawanakwat is a multimedia artist and educator is from Wiikwemkoong unceded First Nation who lives part time in Amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton, Alberta). Her beadwork and clothing line, Briskool, is named after her alias; a trademark that she established during her journey exploring hip hop culture. Brianna’s custom medallions began a decade ago, as a style of expression for Indigenous Bboys and Bgirls for dance battles, self-representation and pride. Brianna’s artistry incorporates Indigenous culture, craft and has connectivity that also captures the essence of hip hop culture. Her pieces have been worn by Indigenous leaders such as Helen Knott and Zoey Roy, and alongside some of Hiphop’s greatest influencers such as Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Melle Mel, and OVO 40.

Website: briskool.ca
IG: @briskool

Check out more pictures from our Indigenous trailblazers here:

Yasiin, a hip hop influencer, with Ernie Paniciolli, a renowned Indigenous photographer, wearing Brianna Olson’s custom beadwork | Image source: Brianna Olson


Film still from Waaseya | Image source: Evelyn Pakinewatik

Work from Gesig Isaac | Image source: Gesig Isaac




Baby Moccasins from Evelyn Pakinewatik | Image source: Evelyn Pakinewatik




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About The Author

Carly Brascoupé

Carly Brascoupé is an Anishinaabe of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg (Quebec) and Batchewana Bay First Nation (Ontario). She is a Toronto-based writer which is known as Dish with One Spoon treaty territory. Carly is a graduate of the Public Relations Advanced program at Humber College in 2016. She is a creative writer with an interest in film production, media, Indigenous contemporary fashion, and the arts. She is also passionate about photography, screenwriting, and recently has undertaken sewing, beadwork, and cinematography in film production. Previously she worked as an event photographer and promoted brands of Diesel Canada, Roots Canada, Club Monaco, Maybelline New York, Garnier, and The Body Shop. She strives to encourage Indigenous young people’s life excellence, representation, and culture.

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