June is National Indigenous History Month. It is a time for all Canadians — Indigenous, non-Indigenous and newcomers — to reflect upon and learn the history, sacrifices, cultures, contributions, and strength of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. Throughout the month of June, CityNews will profile Indigenous people, and share their stories and voices, so that we can celebrate the difference they have made in their communities and to our country.
June 5: Today, we celebrate Angela DeMontigny
Angela DeMontigny is an internationally-renowned fashion designer of Cree-Metis heritage. DeMontigny grew up in North Vancouver and came to Toronto in 1991 as the recipient of a design internship through the Canadian Council for Aboriginal business. It was an award received from the Winds Of Change, a national aboriginal design competition. In 1995, DeMontigny moved to Six Nations of the Grand River reserve to start Spirit Ware and the Factory — the first and only Indigenous-owned apparel factory and industrial sewing training program.
No one exemplifies the title of trailblazer like DeMontigny does. She was the producer and feature designer for ‘FashioNation’ at L’Oreal Fashion Week, the first designer ever for Aboriginal Fashion Week during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, and the first Indigenous designer-in-residence at Ryerson University’s Faculty of Communication and Design.
“My goal as a designer has been to challenge people’s perceptions and ideas of what ‘Indigenous fashion’ is and to break down stereotypes that have been taught since Europeans first arrived in North America.”
In 2014, DeMontigny opened her flagship boutique and gallery on trendy James Street North in Hamilton. DeMontigny’s business philosophy is sustainability and she strives to tell stories through her work.
“As a designer and artist, I have numerous opportunities to explore different mediums — whether it’s creating hand poured soy candles that utilize the healing aspects of Indigenous plant medicines, or large scale public art as a means to educate people about our beliefs, our ties to the land and all living things,” she said.
“It is critical now for people to understand that all things are connected and that we cannot survive without the natural world.”
DeMontigny is not only known in Canada but around the world. She was the first Indigenous and Canadian designer to be featured on the runway during South Africa Fashion Week in 2017. She was also chosen by the Canadian High Commission to create and facilitate workshops to empower Indigenous women in Suriname and Guyana through fashion and business development 2019.
“My goal as a designer has been to challenge people’s perceptions and ideas of what ‘Indigenous fashion’ is and to break down stereotypes that have been taught since Europeans first arrived in North America,” DeMontigny said.
“I have been creating ‘Indigenous luxury’ for International markets for the last two decades.”
DeMontigny’s most recent accomplishment will change the face of Hamilton’s waterfront for years to come. Her original artwork and concept for ‘All Our Relations’ will see five hand blown glass and steel sculptures based on Indigenous beadwork and cultural themes surrounding the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving address.
Click here to learn more about DeMontigny’s story and her Indigenous fashions, and read more about the future of the Hamilton Waterfront here.