The popular saying “dress to impress” can imply that spending large amounts of money on clothing will ensure success and approval. But this is not always the case.
The phrase also invites people to wear clothing that can inspire others and support great causes, which are focal points behind Andréanne Dandeneau and Kim Blackburde Moore’s fashion businesses.
Dandenau, the owner and fashion designer of VOILA Designs Boutique, launched her new label Anne Mulaire this fall and wants her clothing to encourage others to be proud of who they are.
“(My clothing line) is not just about being Indigenous, but (it’s) for everyone to look at their heritage,” she says.
“By doing that, we can bring back stories of the old days and tell those stories. Without them, we have no history.”
Kim Blackburde Moore launched MakadeMigizi Clothing & Apparel in November of 2018 and wants her clothing, which features text in Michif French, Michif Cree, Ojibway and Dakota, to help preserve and bring awareness to Indigenous languages.
“As I teach French and Ojibway in middle school, it is important to me that languages are spoken and become a part of our everyday life,” she says.
“Indigenous languages are important to all of us, and we need to start honouring these languages that our ancestors spoke.”
Family and heritage play key roles in both designers’ businesses.
“I wanted to incorporate my Métis heritage into the clothing,” Dandeneau says, “so, I decided to bring some prints to the clothing, and my dad creates all of the designs.”
Moore says, “the business started with my daughter wanting to have Ojibway-owned clothing.
“Also, my grandfather was (in) a residential school and lost his language, so this is very important to me.”
Both designers are also environmentally friendly and conscious of the implications of clothing production.
“As an Indigenous woman, it has always been apparent to stay connected with the environment, which is why I decided to work with bamboo interwoven in the fabric,” Dandeneau says.
“I also oversee the ethics of production, from who is cultivating it to making sure that any yarn used is not from child labour.”
Moore says, “I do not believe in buying products overseas, as I get all of my materials from local markets in Winnipeg and Selkirk.
“Some of the clothing and tote bags are being made in Montreal, and that is from beginning to end (of production).”
Dandeneau notes that although the journey was not easy in the beginning, the dividends of business growth, support and, most importantly, cultural appreciation are now being seen.
“Ten years ago, the whole conversation of Indigenous art and culture was not very popular or positive, so I had a hard time selling at that point,” she says.
“But now, with recent (cultural and ethnic) positivity movements happening, it has made a lot of people proud of my prints and of being connected to their heritage.”
VOILA Designs Boutique is located at 421 Mulvey Ave. and is open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Moore’s business is home-operated, and shopping is done via her website at makademigizi.ca/shop.
Published in Volume 74, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 26, 2019)