How an Edmonton-based designer is using fashion to revitalize Indigenous languages

EDMONTON—When Brandi Morin’s kohkum (Cree for grandmother) passed away, her aunties were cleaning her house and found pieces of paper scattered throughout that had short stories and memories on them in their mother’s handwriting.

They found the elongated, cursive writings on scrap bits, papers, and even flyers. They compiled all her writings in a mini book, made photocopies, and gave them to all the children and grandchildren, including Morin.

Inspired by her kohkum, Morin, an Edmonton-based designer, decided to use her handwritten stories in her designs. This inspired a casual-wear line of shirts and leggings that aims to revitalize endangered Indigenous languages. Being Métis, Morin decided to call her line Mixed Blood Apparel.

She is just one of many Indigenous designers from Alberta who are taking the fashion world by storm, one culturally appropriate piece at a time.

The Indigenous fashion industry has seen a growth in the past couple years, with the country’s very first Indigenous fashion show called Otahpiaaki taking place in Calgary in 2016, followed by Vancouver in 2017, and Toronto this past summer. In Alberta, the fashion industry has become a movement, advocating for awareness of Indigenous culture, traditions and issues. Most Indigenous designers are using their labels and designs for advocacy, not just fashion.

Morin’s line of shirts and leggings include solid colours with words, phrases, and sometimes even entire sentences, written in Cree.

“My vision for Mixed Blood Apparel was to create empowering contemporary fashion designs that celebrate Indigenous culture and help revitalize endangered Indigenous languages, and also to incorporate and uplift the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” she said.

“I really recognize that Indigenous languages are endangered. I wanted to find a way to make a difference in that area.”

Read more: The Star

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