Indigenous designer Scott Wabano heads to New York Fashion Week

An Indigenous fashion designer who grew up on the James Bay coast of northern Ontario will be heading to New York Fashion Week in the New Year.

For Scott Wabano, New York Fashion Week has always seemed like a dream of the remote community of Moose Factory.

“I always dreamed of doing New York Fashion Week and I didn’t really know how to start that, or even how to try to put my name on it,” Wabano said.

“So the fact that they already knew my name was kind of crazy, kinda surreal.”

For a very long time, sustainability has been part of Indigenous fashion and part of the lives of Indigenous people.-Scott Wabano

Wabano has made a name for itself in the fashion industry with the Wabano brand of genderless streetwear that focuses on empowering Indigiqueer and Two-Spirit people.

Indigenous representation in the fashion industry is important to Wabano.

“For a very long time, you know, the fashion industry has had a very harmful, very colonial perspective on anything that has to do with how a person looks, in terms of the durability of clothes,” they said.

“And you know, for a very long time, sustainability has been part of Indigenous fashion and part of Indigenous peoples’ lives.”

This emphasis on representation and sustainability means that Wabano has worked with Indigenous role models of all shapes, skin colors and sizes.

“There’s such a harmful narrative going on right now and it really contributes to pan-Indigenity. But really, we all come in different shapes and sizes and colors and we have different hair textures and different body types.”

The Globe and Mail named Wabano, who grew up in Moose Factory, Ont., one of the best dressed people of 2022. (Provided by Scott Wabano)

When it comes to sustainability, they have made it a priority to use recycled materials. Some of their bomber jackets, for example, are made with recycled polyester.

Although the invitation to New York Fashion Week was a big step forward, it took a community to help Wabano get the rest of the way.

“I definitely felt like everything was covered for you. But I guess it’s not,” he said.

Organizing a fashion show includes expenses such as paying the models, makeup artists, and photographers, as well as taking on the cost of the venue.

But Wabano crowdfunded and was able to get support from sponsors and their community to hold a fashion show in New York.

Their New York Fashion Week show will take place in February.

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