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Kids help spotlight Mohawk fashion

Courtesy Sergei Bergen, Toronto Kids Fashion Week

Tammy Beauvais hadn’t participated in a proper fashion show in years. When she heard that the Toronto Kids Fashion Week (TKFW) team was taking applications for designers, however, she immediately knew what her runway theme would be: healing.

For the very first time, TKFW held its ninth edition in downtown Montreal on October 1 at the Edifice Jacques-Parizeau.

Beauvais found out that she had been selected just two weeks before the show. As the only Indigenous and Kahnawa’kehró:non designer present, and with 25 years of design experience under her belt, Beauvais admitted that it was still quite a feat to accomplish on such short notice.

“There was a lot of stress, and I was up till four in the morning many nights just creating new pieces for over a week,” she said.

Though fashionwear itself isn’t her specialty, Beauvais took on the opportunity for more sentimental reasons.

“My market is professional wear for Indigenous people, some across Canada and some in the US,” she said. “Doing a mainstream children’s fashion show is not my market… so what I brought was more to share the Indigenous culture, to share the opportunity with Indigenous children, and I also dedicated it to Lexi Fox.”

Fox was a young teenager who took her own life last winter after falling victim to incessant bullying at school. She was 15.

The idea to dedicate the show came after Beauvais ran into Fox’s mother, Suzanne Jacobs, at a powwow a few weeks prior.

“I had never met them before, but I knew her story and thought this would be a really good thing to dedicate it to,” Beauvais said. “It was so tragic what happened, and it’s just healing for the family, for the community and myself.”

For Beauvais, the show’s youth-centric focus was the driving factor that motivated her to participate.

“September 30 was Orange Shirt Day, so it all tied in together to honour the children,” she said. “And intergenerational trauma from residential schools – it’s connected. It’s all connected.”

Beauvais wanted to emphasize the Every Child Matters movement in her designs, so she sewed the message on orange patches at the back of her pieces, which her models adorned on the runway.

“Also, with Lexi Fox – in memory of her and to honour her family – me and my husband did really nice T-shirts with her picture, and we put the Iroquois Confederacy belt on the back,” she said.

Fox’s mother expressed gratitude on behalf of the family.

“I felt so proud of the dedication. It was such an honour to have my girl being remembered and on such a huge platform,” said Jacobs. “I am so grateful that Tammy chose Lexi to honour. It makes my family proud, especially that Kiana – Lexi’s sister – walked for her. I could not be a prouder mom.”

In total, Beauvais used five young models from Kahnawake and one eight-year-old model named Jurnee Longboat from Six Nations.

Among the Kahnawa’kehró:non models were Eviee Diabo, 7, Louise Philips, 10, Emily-Rose Delisle, 14, Kiana Fox, 14, and Ronald Guimond, 15.

“I just enjoyed working with the kids because they had so many questions, they were so funny, and they did their job,” Beauvais said.

Guimond, the oldest of the models and the only male of the group, said that the show was an opportunity to show traditional Native culture.

“I would do it again because it was pretty fun,” he said.

Diabo’s mother, Kaherine Diabo, expressed her appreciation for the show as an attendee herself.

“I thought it was absolutely amazing,” she said. “The work that went into it, and just the coordination of how the kids walked out… Everything was just amazing.”

According to her, should a similar opportunity come their way, Kaherine and her daughter will be back. Already, her seven-year-old is eager to give it another go.

“It was our first time, but I know we’re looking forward to maybe doing another one if Tammy holds another fashion show like that again.”

reinaephrahim@gmail.com

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