Monday, February 23, 2009

Unexpected emotion to loving comments about the Koous Collection

Below are comments I received from one of my husband's colleagues - Olivia's heartfelt words struck me deeply and stirred up much emotion about why my work as a textile artist is a vital way to express myself and celebrate the resiliency of Aboriginal peoples! Thank you Olivia!

I wanted to send a few words about your creations

I profoundly believe that we must reclaim our spirits; that part of becoming healthier and wholesome is to bring back the essence that has been taken from us by political agendas that want us segregated and alienated …. sometimes by our own complacency. Some of us have the opportunity to call back our spirits by the work we do. What I see/understand from your fashion creations is colour, fabric, dreams, memories, stories….i imagine a woman, wearing one of your garments, moving to the rhythm of some story only you knew when you conjured that specific piece of clothe, and yet, the order and sequence of colour shape and texture change and evolve with each individual. It is a bit like story telling, isn’t it?! And, I guess is a bit like poetry…at least that’s what I thought when I read: “I also lucked out at a garage sale last summer with finding a wonderful spool of gold thread to outline the applique.” Please J’net, make me a gown with those words and definitely outline the appliqué with that wonderful spool of gold thread!

Congratulations and success,


Woodland Cultural Centre Comments on the Koous Collection

I had the delight to be accepted as a featured artist in the summer and fall 2008 artist exhibits at the Woodland Cultural Centre. Below are recent comments offered by Judy Harris from Woodlands - many thanks to her for taking time to visit the Koous Collection blog and offering her feedback.

Sge:noh J'net
I'm so glad that you have the blog to visit. It gave me greater insight into your creativity in fashion design and in your beautiful baby. The clothing that you have designed are second to none, the incorporation of your vibrant culture into fashion designs brings the teachings of your people into present day. Aboriginal designers, who utilize their stories, symbols in their works, need to be commended; they are bringing to the forefront their national pride and heritage, and are showing the general public they can create fabulous works alongside mainstream designers.
I commend you and wish you the best in all your creativity -
Judy Harris
Woodland Cultural Centre

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Reflections from the husband of the Koous Collection

Chris was the one who introduced me to blogging and he just posted yet another fashion adventure I am traveling! You can visit his blog or read his comments below...

I am sooooooo grateful for my family's belief in me! Hoooooooooooowls to our creative clan!

The house is strewn with pins and needles and a rainbow array of strips of fabric. It looks like a crazy wind has blown through leaving this varicolored chaos. Or it's like a wake that you can follow to find J'net hunched over her sewing machine at all hours of the day and night. True, i flee for the couch downstairs when the sewing machine in churning out the workings of J'net's imagination. But it's a small price to pay to support J'net in her vision of clothing that tells some of the stories of her Nuu-chah-nulth culture and aboriginal culture more broadly still. Our house is lined with the staid beauty of diversely-stocked bookshelves, the tantalizing beauty of folded bolts of fabric and rolls of hand-made paper and, spicing it all up, the cheerful chaos of numerous projects-in-process. If you want to see more of J'net's creations you can see some images on her website/blog: Koous Collection.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Reflections from BC on the Koous Collection

The following is a message my friend Irene Robinson from back hooooome in Port Alberni, BC. Both Irene and I are life-long students who champion ways of celebrating our Nuu-chah-nulth roots with our families and communities! This is what she had to say about what the Koous Collection and textile art in Aboriginal Fashion:

I am not sure where this prophecy comes from but I have heard it many times. It is the prophecy of the seventh generation. The version of the prophecy I have heard is that the strength of our people will return in the 7th generation and that visionaries will lead the way. Artists are part of the group of people called visionaries.

I grew up in a time when it was hard to feel proud of who I was as a First Nations woman. Part of reclaiming that pride is being visually present in our heritage. Culturally designed clothing makes a statement to everyone around me that I am a woman who is proud of her heritage. Much the way that other races also make this statement from the wearing of turbans to the use of Black fashions that became very strong in the U.S.A. First Nations Fashions is a very strong, very vibrant, and very quickly growing section of the Fashion Industry and reflects fashions both past and present from the many different Nations across Turtle Island.
I have known J'net for many years and have watched her fashions evolve over time. I am most impressed by the designs she is developing today. They speak of her own imagination and her love of color and beauty.

My sister also creates gorgeous fashions. She recently made a vest for me displaying a traditional dancer. For the outsider that is all they would see. For my sister and I what it represents is our family. In the 1950's and 60's, at a time when it was not easy to be Indian, my mother invited Elders to come to our home and teach my sisters and I how to sing and dance. We learned about the proper way to dance and also about performance dancing. We also lived with ridicule from our peers for doing something that, at the time, was considered primitive and best left in the past. We were among the first of our generation to bring back the pride to our traditional dancing and singing. This dancer represents all that and more to me. When I wear this vest that is what I am thinking about.

cuu Irene

cuu (CHOO) means see you later in our Nuu-chah-nulth language... this might help explain how I end my phone calls and visits with people I meet outside Nuu-chah-nulth territory.

Where can you see the Koous Collection next?

First Peoples at Seneca have graciously invited me back to exhibit my Koous Collection next Friday, February 20th, 2009!

Check out their latest poster for details!

For further inquiries contact or or call 416.491.5050 x2141

Thanks to Cheryle Jacobs for doing our make-up at the photo shoot!

One way to make a photo shoot an ultimate success is to have a professional make-up artist to smooooooth rough edges!

Thanks to the other model Lana for recruiting her pal CHERYLE JACOBS to help make our glamour shots even more glamourous! In the event you need the services of a professionally trained make-up artist, email Cheryle Jacobs to offer a polite and a polished make-up application!

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens

Baby #3 to keep me company me on this sewing journey!

To offer some important perspective to this OAC Access & Career Development Award is the fact that I attended my sewing classes with my new born son.

My youngest of three children began this sewing journey with my when he was only 11 days old! Thankfully he was born a week early - he is now 5 months old!

All my sewing happened in between naps, feedings, diaper changes and of course, laundry loads!

Many thanks to my family, especially my teenager, for all their support and help!

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens

Wolf teachings guide my textile art!

Being of the Wolf Clan from the Nuu-chah-nulth nation on Vancouver Island I am naturally inspired to work wolf designs into my fashion designs as a textile artist!

Here is one of my vests accented with an appliqued wolf design with rhinestones for the eyes!

Wolves are known for being family oriented, a clan devoted to being teachers and leaders to share knowledge and teachings for future generations.

Another aspect of being from the wolf clan is being a loner, which I think is expressed through my textile art. My family knows my favourite time work on my designs is in the middle of the night. My creativity is peaked when I have my art as my sole company - no family demands distract me in the weeee hours of the night!

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens

Making fashion wolf tracks with signature suit for the Koous Collection!

Here is my promotional business suit I made with a wolf stylized applique design.

While making this suite during my OAC supported sewing classes, I learned plenty about creating crisper lines and working on making a well-finished lining.

What was fun about making this suit, is I finally had something that fit my post-pregnancy body and will grow with me as I work off the baby-weight! I also lucked out at a garage sale last summer with finding a wonderful spool of gold thread to outline the applique.

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens

Wild Woman brings the west coast to Toronto!

Lana Jackson looks amazing in my two-piece Wild Woman denim outfit!

The laced eyelet bustier and wrap-around denim skirt make it possible for this outfit to be enjoyed by a variety of sizes.

I enjoyed accenting this outfit with brocade red silk and the applique is created by turning the denim fabric inside-out to make the body shape of the wild-woman!

What took the longest on this particular outfit is the hand-made fringe which created by pulling out strings of fabric one strand at a time... I sure could use some technical feedback how to make this accent easier in the future!

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens

Have Identity will travel!

This wrap-around skirt features a silhouetted skyline of Toronto on one side... while a pack of wolves on the front of the skirt runs toward a mountain range representing my BC roots on the other side. The pack of wolves on the back of the skirt are running back to the city outline.

I call this piece "Have Identity will travel" to acknowledge that my artistic talents and cultural identity as a Nuu-chah-nulth woman from Vancouver Island continues to be nurtured enough to feel pride where-ever I am.

Being a Nuu-chah-nulth textile artist role model is not limited to me living in BC. With my ever growing cultural identity radiating from within through my art can be expressed from where-ever I am on the planet!

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens

Celebrating Turtle Island!

Here is a dress that was inspired by the local Turtle clan teachings I have heard about from meeting Mohawk/Haudenoshaunee locals.

With a west coast accent on this turtle, I am learning as a textile artist the power of oral teachings can be expressed through animal images.

Although, I may not come from a cultural background that offer teachings from the symbolic turtle, I still have much I can learn from respecting the variety of teachings animal symbols offer from other Aboriginal cultures from across the country.

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens

Adding Koous style to a stylish dress!

Here is a playful fringe dress Lana Jackson modeled for the photo shoot!

What makes this a part of the Koous Collection is the added rainbow beaded accent on the neckline!

Adding cultural accents to pre-fab outfits is a playful way to add native talents in a mainstream fashion environment!

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens

Eagle Family motivated by Motherhood!

A proud mother of three beautiful children, this Eagle Family image was a perfect design to work with having just birthed baby #3 this past September!

Made from a turquoise blue linen fabric and accented with white fringe, this is a maternity dress or a dress that will fit a full-figured woman!

The Eagle family image is versatile, because I could use this image on a man or teen jacket and it could be a father, sister, brother, aunty, uncle or grandparent eagle image holding a new baby eagle!

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens

Making cultural tracks with my little one!

Here is one of my natural inspirations- my 8 year-old daughter! As you can see she is a natural little jewel in front of the camera!

Just to keep a balance with my family... every three or four outfits i stop to make her something to be sure she does not feel left out of my creative process!

Here my girl is wearing a flowered hippy top with a denim fringe pants with my latest eagle feather design. I recall making her a dress one time... and she was not wearing it - she explained..."it is not finished with a native design mom!"

My family is super supportive of my ambition as a textile artist - I give them a great deal of thanks for their patience and encouragement!

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens

Footprints our children will be proud to walk in...

This dress is one gown I am particularly proud of - being modeled by Lana Jackson. Sporting a west coast wild woman on the front and footprints on the entire hemline.

This dress is entitled: "Leaving Footprints our children will be proud to walk in"

This makes for an excellent dress to impress outfit and worn to formal events and great for being an Master of Ceremonies or Guest Hostess.

I learned a lot through my recent OAC Access and Career Development supported sewing classes how to better rework the inner lining of this garment. The sewing classes gave me excellent hand-sewing tips to ensure a polished retail-ready final product!

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens

Mentoring by Tracy Toulouse

Tracy Toulouse, an Ojibway textile artist and aspiring fashion designer has been an extraordinary mentor to help me learn more about the world of Aboriginal fashion.

Although Tracy had an early awareness of her flare for fashion dating back to her high school days, it took many years before she finally followed her dreams to become a textile artist through studying fashion and a 3 year business program.

I met Tracy through my work with Northern Styles where we both have been involved in the same fashion events. Tracy is an accomplished designer and business woman whom I admire greatly. Our connection over this past winter with her as my mentor has been meaningful and informative.

The underlying motivation to Tracy's work as a textile artist is a profound belief in the spirit of the art she as a designer puts into her clothes. Tracy explains "Someone helped me see my spirit is in my clothes… when we create we put our spirit in the outfit… share that spirit with other people… just as in traditional garments.. all have spirit and the art we create is symbolic and we carry the outfits in high regard - the basic respect we have for the garment and way of carrying the spirit… there is power in what we wear…"

What I learned most from Tracy being my mentor is being more aware of the steps involved to ensure my work as a textile artist is successful. This OAC Access & Career Development Award has been an excellent foundation for me to become more skilled and ultimately more confident in my talents as a textile artist.

Tracy was tremendously helpful in giving me insight and perspective on how to develop a fashion show line up. As a textile artist, I have come to understand one way of featuring my fashion designs is to to break the show line-up in to three categories.

  1. Boutique is the Top Line - This line is devoted to items being manufactured professionally and going to retail. For an established designer like Tracy, this becomes the main line committed to filling orders requested by actual retail buyers. Here Tracy will create a simple line of four to five textile art designs in womens, mens and kids clothing items for at least two seasons. This would include: outer wear and jacket with a focus on creating designs marketed to the mass based on sizes, simple designs and costs involved
  2. Custom Orders - This line has more creativity involved and devoted to custom orders such as ball gowns, suits and high-end pieces. Many of shows we see at events like L'Oreal fashion week will include at least 25% of the presentation are actually custom orders being shown but not for sale - but are in the show for 'glam' just to try and get the interest of potential buyers, a way to work within a limited budget and a chance to find out the target market and which boutiques would be interested in your work
  3. Casual Line - this is the affordable line that often includes pre-fab outfits which are adorned with various treatments like silk screen, appliqué, air brushing. This is the wholesale line to be sold as affordable pieces for those who cannot afford a Boutique piece. The casual line is often easier to sell on the pow wow circut, casino boutique, web store and local trading store

Thanks you Tracy Toulouse for being a Mentor to the Koous Collection

Tracy Toulouse is a textile artist with Swirling Wind Designs Aboriginal Fashion studio.

Tracy Toulouse is from the North shores area in Northern Ontario, and grew up on the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation. She is an Ojibway from the Bear clan.

Tracy is an aspiring Fashion Designer and Traditional Craft Artist. Her garments range from one-of-a-kind Regalias (traditional dance outfit) to entire bridal parties. Her strong connection to her culture and identity is the creative force behind her designs.

Red Works Studio photoshoot by Nadya Kwandibens

Nadya Kwandibens is of Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) / French heritage from the Northwest Angle #37 First Nation in Ontario, Canada. Identifying mainly with her Ojibwe roots, she is also known as Makoons and is from the Loon Clan. Go to Nadya's website to learn more about her background as a photographer! Many thanks to Nadya for taking the photo's featured above to help me wrap up my Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Access & Career Development Award with her stunning photography!

Nadya Kwandibens
Photo by: Sarah Decarlo

Indigenous Fashion website launched!

Yet another way to celebrate the latest in Indigenous Fashion! Check out this latest website created by Northern Styles to inform interested readers about the world of Aboriginal Fashion.

Charm Logan and I were at a panel of leading Canadian fashion representatives this winter. When Charm asked how would the organizers of L'Oreal fashion week events would ensure Aboriginal designers would be showcased - we were shocked and upset when Jeannie Becker from Fashion Television declare that "...natives don't have fashion they have costumes - and there is not place for costumes in fashion." She seemed proud to report she had recently bought a park of muk-luks in Winnipeg and they were made by a white woman. becomes a pro-active way of seeing past the limited vision of mainstream fashion respresentatives - and important medium to ensure Aboriginal fashion designers are acknowledged for their diverse and unique contributions to the world of fashion.

Northern Styles consistent supporter of Koous Collection

I am ever grateful for the ongoing support and exposure offered by Northern Styles in a number of shows throughout this past year. The Koous Collection has traveled to Edmonton, Winnipeg, Wikwimikong First Nation and Toronto!

Northern Styles is committed to increasing the positive profile and top notch professional presentations of emerging and established native fashion designers. Celebrating through culture, Northern Styles is a leader in native fashion promotion!

Thank you to Charm and her team at Northern Styles for believing in the Koous Collection.

Public thank-you to Ontario Arts Council at Seneca Aboriginal Artshow

Being among the featured artists at the Aboriginal Artshow at Seneca College gave me a natural opportunity to publicly thank the Ontario Art Council (OAC) for their generous support. As mentioned in an earlier post, the OAC gave me an Aboriginal Access and Career Development Award to explore my talents as a textile artist.

In this photograph, I am wearing one of my lastest creation in my Koous Collection which features my wolf clan.

Koous Collection at Seneca College Aboriginal Artshow '08

I would like to thank the First Peoples at Seneca College, Newnham Campus, for inviting me to showcase my Koous Collection at the Aboriginal Artshow '08.

What a proud delight to be apart of an official unveiling of the above original painting by
Christian Morrisseau, son of the late Norval Morrisaseau. This painting will add greatly to a colourful presence of First Nations students on campus.

The Seneca Aboriginal Artshow offered an excellent opportunity to meet and network with other Aboriginal Artists living in Toronto. I also recieved interest from other community organizers to be invited to future events to share my textile art talents.

This particular artshow inspired my interest to look into attending fashion design school. One of the fashion design instructors went out of her way to visit my display table and suggested I come to her office to collect information about their three year fashion design program.

The wheels began to turn and conversations about going back to school began with my husband and my Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Manifesting a future in fashion begins...