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Cory Willmott

Contemporary Native Canadian Fashion Design


Contemporary Native Canadian Fashion Design:

1. "Contemporary Native Fashion: Designing, Producing and Enacting Nationalisms"

2. "Radical Entrepreneurs: Towards a Model of First Nations Approaches to Economic Development in the Secondary Textile Industries"

3. "Radical Entrepreneurs: First Nations Fashion Designers' Approaches to Economic Development"

Radical Entrepreneurs: First Nations Fashion Designers' Approaches to Economic Development

This paper questions notions of economic development that rely upon a binary opposition between socialist worker cooperatives and capitalist entrepreneurs by examining a little known group of entrepreneurial First Nations contemporary fashion designers. Although First Nations economic development agencies in Canada favour the entrepreneurial model, their officers have almost entirely overlooked the fashion industry as a credible site for economic development. Independently, however, First Nations fashion designers have become "radical entrepreneurs" who achieve aesthetic and economic autonomy while simultaneously incorporating indigenous approaches to community economic support. Building upon work conducted among First Nations fashion designers by Cory Willmott from 1999 to 2002, the present work was undertaken in connection with the research project on "Community Economic Development in the New Economy" under the umbrella of the Manitoba Research Alliance (MRA). Our team, led by Dr. Raymond Wiest, employed two First Nations researchers, Aaron Pettman and Temperance McDonald, who conducted interviews with economic officers, designers and other key players in the aboriginal fashion business in Winnipeg and throughout Canada . We also documented and analyzed First Nations fashion shows and internet sites for their semiotic and economic significance. Through these means, this study situates the local context of First Nations economic development in Winnipeg , Manitoba , within the national context of federal government policies and an intertribal community of contemporary First Nations designers and fashion show producers. It's specific goals are threefold: 1) to draw attention to an area and strategy of First Nations economic development that is seldom if ever recognized, even within Native communities; 2) to build upon critiques of economic development that are well established in relation to Third World contexts that are only infrequently applied to Fourth World contexts; and 3) to demonstrate the degree to which First Nations individuals selectively employ economic and aesthetic elements from indigenous and dominant cultural traditions to create an economically viable space for the expression of bicultural identities.

Northern Star Co-operative, Store and workshop, Winnipeg, MB, 2004

Photo By: Brian Barth

Ron Everett Design, Aboriginal Voices Fashion Show, Toronto 1999

Photo By: Cory Willmott

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