Vancouver Fashion Week; First Nations' Designs

Almost 60 First Nations designers and models have joined forces for the four-day event, which opened on 26 July.

Many of those on the catwalk are current or former foster children.

The event's organiser, former model Joleen Mitton, said she hoped it would give young indigenous people "a sense of their own culture".

Ms Mitton, 33, has been working with First Nations children in foster care for almost a decade. It was their interest in her fashion past that inspired her to launch the show.

"You wear who you are, and if you're wearing something from your territory, it brings you a sense of self-awareness," CBC quoted her as saying.

"It helps them know who they are, so they don't fall through the cracks of society.

"I'm hoping these girls walk away with a sense of pride in themselves, and in their culture."

Willow Riley rips a Canadian flag while modelling clothes from designer Oka during the inaugural Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada July 27, 2017.Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionWillow Riley models clothes from designer Oka during the inaugural Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week
Spectators watch as models walk down the runway during the inaugural Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada July 27, 2017.Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMost of the models taking part are from indigenous backgrounds

Indigenous symbols are frequently borrowed by high-fashion labels - and not always sensitively.

In 2012, underwear brand Victoria's Secret apologised for sending supermodel Karlie Kloss down the runway in high-heeled moccasins and a feathered headdress - an item sacred to plains people.

Ms Mitton hopes the VIFW will send a message that people who appreciate indigenous style can get the look respectfully, by buying from First Nations designers.

"This is totally reclaiming what is ours," she said. "[The event] is activism in itself."

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