The Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival, formerly known as Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, will be held later this week in Toronto and will showcase new collections from some of the biggest names in the Indigenous fashion scene. From June 9-12, the biennial event will return to in-person this year after being held virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic. IFA founder Sage Paul said this year will be better than ever. “Indigenous fashion is in a constant state of evolution and exploration rooted in culture, so audiences can expect to see the vibrancy and legacy of our cultures through a contemporary lens,” said Paul. “What’s hard to put into words is the energy and spirit felt at the festival. There’s nothing like bringing your community together to celebrate each other’s incredible art and design. others.
Four parades will take place at Toronto’s Harbourfront Center Theatre, a new location chosen for its circular walkway. “The circle is important to most Indigenous cultures, so our show is symbolic and a true Indigenous fashion experience to amplify and complement designers’ scheduled collections,” says Paul. (First Nations medicine wheel teachings, for example, revolve around this form.)
Each show will open with a musical number – featuring artists like Cris Derksen, Bear Fox, Tia Wood and Nyia – and will feature a different group of artists divided by themes. For example, the showcase of the first evening features avant-garde designers like Curtis Oland, Evan Ducharme and Amy Malbeuf. “What excites me most about the designers on all four nights of the show is how original they are to each other,” says Paul. “Some notable collections include Michel Dumont’s collection made mostly of cellophane, including looks in drag and for someone who uses a wheelchair.”
In addition to the parades, the festival will also feature a market full of Indigenous-made goods, as well as a full slate of panel discussions (a highlight will no doubt be the conversation between artist Kent Monkman and activist Sarain Fox ), and a special hide tanning workshop. “I hope maintaining a platform like the IFA will maintain the traditional practices that have been passed down,” says Paul. She adds that the intention of the festival has always been to serve Indigenous peoples first. “Creating a platform for Indigenous designers, led by Indigenous peoples, is extremely important. We have many culturally nuanced approaches to how we produce a festival, create clothes and wear them! I see the IFA as a place of celebration and sovereignty for community, body and land.