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When it comes to donning Indigenous fashion, aim for inspiration – not appropriation – The Globe and Mail

Have you ever felt all dressed up with no political statement to make?

Perhaps some background: The first time I met Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, was at a book launch taking place at the Royal Ontario Museum. I was rushing down a hallway, late as always, and I saw a woman who looked vaguely familiar dressed in a stunning Dorothy Grant ensemble. As a fan and supporter of Indigenous fashion, I stopped to get a better look.

Grant is a Haida designer, one of the first to incorporate elements of her culture into her fashion designs. And I didn’t normally see many non-Indigenous people wear such designs so proudly. I always found this odd, since I know so many successful First Nations people wearing dominant-culture couture. Gathering dust in my closet, I have Armani, Robert Graham and Giant Tiger hanging right next to my Pat Piche, Tammy Beauvais – and yes, Dorothy Grant. But other than the odd T-shirt and umbrella, there seemed to me a certain reluctance for many of the dominant culture to don the magnificent work of our Indigenous designers.

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