Evan Ducharme has never shied away from making a statement. The Vancouver designer makes made-to-order pieces with only local fabrics – which is not the easiest thing to do in a world of $3 tank tops.
“I’ve always been kind of a low-key political designer,” Ducharme told Witchslapped. A previous collection, Saudade, which showed at Eco Fashion Week 2015, revolved around gender. Or rather, a lack thereof.
“While that collection was very sleek and minimal and had all the key words that fashion people like to use… the inspiration behind that was this movement of gender equality and removing norms from clothing,” he said. “It was a really bold expression of sexuality that didn’t have to be this absolute feminine sexuality or this absolute masculine sexuality, but just sexuality at its core.”
His latest collection – ORIGIN – is making a different statement altogether. It’s a more personal, practical work that was inspired by Ducharme’s Métis upbringing in Manitoba.
He was motivated by clothing he saw growing up: the apron his grandmother wore in the kitchen, the worksuit his father wore hunting. The collection’s colour palette was even drawn from the Métis sash.
“I wanted to do something that was more personal because the last seasons have been very much about fashion and what’s trending,” Ducharme said.
Unfortunately, straying from trends to make a political statement isn’t always understood in the fashion world.
“This whole collection is an ode to my people and an ode to indigenous culture throughout Canada. And it’s also a call to action for recognition of the struggle of indigenous people throughout this country, whether it be the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or murdered and missing indigenous women,” he explained.
But a collection’s message can sometimes get lost, Ducharme said, despite a designer’s intent.
“It’s almost like people are dismissing this collection as being ‘magical’ and ‘mystical’ and ‘ethereal’ just because my jumping off point was my indigenous heritage. At the very core of the collection it’s not mystical in any way, shape, or form. It’s really durable clothes that you wear day to day.”
It’s no secret that the fashion world tends to misunderstand indigenous culture. Appropriation is rampant, while genuine appreciation is hard to find. The popularity of native headdresses worn as an accessory to music festivals made Osheaga ban them altogether. And Navajo Nation, the largest native tribe in the United States, recently lost a lawsuit against Urban Outfitters because their tribe is not “famous” enough to own rights to their own traditional art.
It can be frustrating to work so hard on a collection, only to have it misinterpreted, Ducharme said. But at the same time, he remains hopeful that his work can make people look at indigenous issues differently.
“More than influencing what people wear, you can influence how people think,” he said.
The man himself:
Check out Evan as Witch of the Week:
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report
- The facts on missing and murdered native women