Textile art a vital thread in First Nations identity

Models and fashion designers are usually seen on runways in New York and Paris, but on Feb. 29, Centennial College offered a taste of that glitz and glamour, with a First Nations’ twist.

J’net Cavanagh, an Indigenous Studies Curriculum Developer and Manager at the Centre for Creative Communications organized the show and contributed some of her own “textile creations.

“I wanted to make a connection with the handful of [Aboriginal] students on campus and give them a leadership opportunity to showcase indigenous people in a positive, contemporary way,” she said.

Model Farrah Keshane, a student in the Child and Community Services Foundations program, said it was an important for her to be involved.

“I just wanted to take part in the event because I thought the clothes were beautiful and they were from a First Nations designer,” said Keshane, who added there is not a large of visible indigenous presence on campus.

Cavanagh acknowledges that. She said events such as the fashion show are attempts to reach out to those students with First Nations ancestry. Textile art, such as the Scottish Tartan, have long been used to stitch together the identity of peoples and tribes around the globe.

Cavanagh, who has been designing and making clothes for over 15 years, prefers to be called a textile artist instead of a fashion designer: “I keep oral stories alive through my art,” she said.

She was very proud to say that a lot of different nations were represented in the show: “For every model … we had a different nation,” Cavanagh said.

Cavanagh hopes the fashion show will continue in the future and eventually expand to other campuses.