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Boot designers fuse native tradition with modern chic - Leather Sewing Thread Manufacturer by grass lawn

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Boot designers fuse native tradition with modern chic - Leather Sewing Thread Manufacturer by
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Boot designers fuse native tradition with modern chic - Leather Sewing Thread Manufacturer

Business,Business News,Business Opportunities
Matt Gardner Daily Herald Creenisgaa clothing is the brainchild of Linda Lavallee, a memberof the Montreal Lake Cree Nation, and her husband Patrick ReidStewart, a Nisga a architect. The Chilliwack, B.C.-based companyis garnering acclaim for its line of wearable art leather boots,which made their debut on the catwalk last month as part ofNational Aboriginal Fashion Week in Regina. It was amazing, Lavallee said of her first real fashion showexperience. I got so much publicity that it was quiteoverwhelming. The boots borrow techniques traditionally used to make nativefootwear but add embroidered artwork more often found on gowns,jackets and suits.

Typical designs include animals that symbolize acustomer s aboriginal name, although the company has manynon-First Nations customers as well. Lavallee never planned on becoming a professional fashion designerin her youth. Her talent with a needle and thread began as areaction to economic hardship. Being really poor, I wanted the boots, or actually west coastclothing, that other people wore, she remembers.

They were soexpensive I couldn t afford it, so I just started learning how tosew. I was determined to learn so that I could wear this stuff thatI couldn t afford. While she was pregnant at the age of 18, her father advised her tolearn some practical skills. My dad said, You have to learn something to survive, andthis is what you re going to learn.

And I was taught how to workwith leather. Originally Lavallee only made boots for her own use, but theconstant stream of positive comments she received while wearingthem in public suggested that it might be worthwhile to turn herhobby into a full-time profession. Before taking the plunge into business, Lavallee first consultedher elders to ask if it was permissible. They said yes, go ahead on the condition that you give tobaccofor the animal and then pray for each pair of boots that leaves ourhands, and that it goes towards a person that will walk a good walkin them, she said. Each boot is individually made and prayed over every day that Igo down there.

I work on a pair of boots that are always prayedover, just so I have good thoughts when I m working with it andthat when it finally goes to the next person when they wear themthey re protected, they re safe. I m not saying they ll neverget hurt, but I did the best I could with each pair. Lavallee took advantage of the artistic talent in her family andrecruited her husband, as well as her son Cory and niece Carly, tohelp design artwork for the custom-made boots. If somebody orders a pair of boots, we take a tracing of theperson s foot, and we do measurements and construct the boot thatway, Stewart said. Of course, as we have more boots available,people try on a boot and say, Hey, this fits perfect, and thenwe sort of already know, because people s calves are differentsizes and all that, people s ankles are different.

It s alearning process for us in that we re starting to recognize what aperson s foot needs. My dad said, You have to learn something to survive, and thisis what you re going to learn. And I was taught how to work withleather. - Linda Lavallee The division of labour falls along tribal lines.

Stewart handlesNisga a and west coast artwork, while Lavallee and Cory handleCree art. Once designs are in place, Lavallee either uses a sewing machine orsews the boots by hand. The labour-intensive process means that ittakes at least an entire day to create one pair. Adults boots costbetween $300 and $600, while a children s pair cost around $150. With her growing success, Lavallee hopes to give something back toher community, which is suffering from a lack of work in a pooreconomy.

She is actively training the next generation in the skillsnecessary to create clothing and footwear. To promote the boots, creenisgaa clothing has scheduled aprofessional photo shoot on the shores of Montreal Lake starting at2 p.m. on Sunday. Almost 100 members of the local community,ranging from toddlers to elders and headlined by National MissCanada Globe finalist Brittany Bitternose, will model the boots.Tickets for a pair of customized boots will also be sold at $1apiece in order to raise money for a youth group in northernSaskatchewan. They had asked me a couple months ago to see if I could donateanything because the bands were no longer helping the children togo to this camp for seven days, Lavallee recalled.

I said, I ll try and sell tickets for a pair of boots, see where thatgoes. So we re hoping to make some money for these.
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