Fashion from the very beginning

The evolution of Winnipeg-based independent clothing line Spirocreations

  • Barb Morton, founder of independent fashion line Spirocreations, works in her studio.

‘I like this coat,’ we say, ‘It’s not expensive,’ as if that were a fact about the coat and not the end of a story about all the people who made it and sold it.

—The Fever

Based in Winnipeg, Spirocreations is an international clothing line of hand-stitched leather apparel including designs of footwear, leather necklaces, shawls, belts, cowls and earrings.

“It’s not really about shoes,” explained independent artist and designer Barb Morton.

As co-ordinator of an inner-city art program for homeless and low-income adults, Morton began “playing with leather,” learning to make moccasins from the advice of her participant-friends in the program.

Local and international interest came quite unexpectedly for Morton. Since launching an Etsy store online in mid-July, Morton has received orders from other provinces, the U.K., Australia, Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Ireland, Austria and the U.S.

Morton explained that Spirocreations was inspired by studying pre-historic cultures, indigenous and First Nations groups. An immense appreciation for artisanship resulted.

“I tried it for myself and realized how much hard work is put into making something by hand. The process gained my respect. Things have more meaning when effort is put into them,” Morton explained.

One might think a sewing machine and perhaps a little help would come in handy.

“A factory line would defeat the purpose of Spirocreations. So much meaning is put in the process of creating each piece,” said Morton. “In the past, clothing used to be tailored for people. But since the industrial revolution, sizes are more popular.”

“If you don’t fit a [certain] size then you’re not normal.”

Spirocreations tries to validate by making garments that fit people and their personality.

“I don’t worry about being trendy. My pieces are so bizarre anyway.”

Pressure comes more from the desire to make a livelihood out of designing.

“I’m not strategizing a way to be successful. I’m just making things and loving it,” Morton explained.

Since First Nations design inspired much of Spirocreations, Barb met with First Nations elders, as a respectful gesture and to ask permission before selling internationally.

“It’s important to do things in the right order,” Morton said.

“This couldn’t have come at a better time,” she added. “For a long time I’ve worked beside creative people, but was never ‘the artist.’ I was frustrated because I never found my thing.”

Morton commented that the success of Spirocreations doesn’t really sway her, though she’s touched by the popularity.

“I’m happy and at peace with myself, without being defined or having this creative title,” Morton concluded.

Morton will be selling Spirocreations at “This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Craft Sale” Sunday, Dec. 13 at the Park Theatre. Check out her Etsy store online

Published in Volume 64, Number 14 of The Uniter (December 3, 2009)

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