Angel Aubichon is a Cree-Metis Artist and Designer from Saskatchewan who has been working to build her skill set since 2007. She began beading at 21, inspired to make her own Fancy Dance outfit as a way to express her creativity through regalia design and dance. Although she never finished her outfit, the idea of designing accessories and creating wearable “traditional” streetwear stayed warm in her heart for years.
Indi City started out as "a coughing and sputtering cheeky misnomer blog" long before Angel even began designing and selling her beadwork. Wanting to refine its original conception and the direction of Indi City, Angel partnered with Alex Manitopyes. The power duo is working hard to turn Indi City into a global brand, eventually wanting to include a line of streetwear, a blog contributed to by a myriad of Indigenous voices, and an atelier that serves as a hub of authentic Indigenous design and media into the mix.
"Indi City is a reclamation of the Matriarchy. Indigenous design is ingrained in our blood memory as we come from the original couture creators of this land. We wish to empower our makers and share the story of blood memory and how that relates to design and fashion."
We interviewed Angel to learn more about her creative process, Otahpiaaki fashion week, and cultural appropriation in the fashion industry. Read the full interview below:
Have you always wanted to be a jewellery designer or was that more of an unexpected career path?
Jewelry design wasn’t at the top of my list, but becoming a designer has always been a dream. I’m not much of a seamstress, but I have an eye for predicting trends before they happen. My hands and I have had this lifelong love-hate relationship. Some people have this thing with their big feet, but it was always my big hands that tripped me up. Bead-working taught me how to love and appreciate the beauty that my hands could create, and the patience and grace to accept my flaws.
What’s the process behind each piece—how do you go from envisioning a piece to creating it?
It’s hilarious to admit that a lot of my creative process happens while I sleep. I quite literally dream up many of the styles and ideas and wake up ready to design. An elder told me that I sleep travel to various times and places throughout history and space. I guess this is why I’m a big space nerd and believe I was an archaeologist in a former life. Nature is also a direct source of creative power for me, as is the sky. I’ll take photos of a sunrise or a sunset and point out the colours according to beads and revisit the photo as I go bead shopping. Every moment of every day consists of living and breathing design. Start to finish a single piece can take anywhere from 2-5 hours to 2-5 years, which is the biggest hurdle of Indi City. It takes a ton of time and hands to make it happen profitably and sustainably. But, the beauty of that hurdle is I get to employ others and this is the heart of the win-win for me.
Colour is a huge component of your jewellery, how do you create your colour palettes? Is there any significance behind the colours you choose?
Having mentioned nature and the sky as components of inspiration I can also say that ceremony life in my 20’s taught me a thing or two about the meaning of certain colours. I like what Danielle Laporte says about being a “spiritual mutt” as she pulls and gathers aspects of different practices and religions that resonate with her being. I do this with colour and design. I like to bead chakra colours because those colours also hold weight with my own culture as we use different palettes for directing intention in prayer. I guess my story beads would also be considered prayer beads. Gold is my middle name. I probably use up my gold beads 10 to 1 of any other colour.
What are your inspirations?
My most prolific inspiration comes from my great-grandmother, or as I call her Kohkum. She was a beader, and I remember being a little kid running around the bush, looking at wildflowers, and observing how she lived off the land. Her cookie tin sat on a TV tray next to her chair by the window, and it held her beading things. I would run my fingers over the floral patterns being stitched down onto the moose hide as they sat in mid-creation. I now own her last pair of beaded Mukluks. She crafted them while legally blind at the age of 96. I love this story and her memory is the foundation of everything that I hold in reverence. I’m inspired by the perseverance and beauty of the human spirit, and how this is exemplified in so many different souls for so many different reasons. Erykah Badu is pretty rad, and so is Stevie Nicks.
Otahpiaaki fashion week happened last month in Calgary and you were one of the designers this year, how did it feel to be apart of this initiative?
Otahpiaaki was a turning point for me as a designer. I’m forever in gratitude for being invited to partake. I like to talk about how it felt like I had been waiting my whole life to meet someone, and at the end of the runway show, I got to meet her. Her being myself wearing the right hat at the right moment for the first time. The momentum of Otahpiaaki coincides with a handful of incredible blessings this year, and all together it’s been pretty awesome.
Cultural appropriation is a huge issue within the fashion industry, was it a large motivation behind the initial creation of Indi City?
It’s cool to rock Indigenous design, but make sure that it’s created by “Inspired Natives, and not just Native-Inspired.” Being a voice and source for authentic Indigenous design is the heartbeat of “why fashion” for me. With so much talent and access to authentic design, it’s really time for the rest of the world to get on board with true reconciliation. I believe that commerce is the origin of how to reach this and truly the only middle ground we’ve ever had as Canadians. We want to share our culture and designs with everyone, but we must be included in that process. Handcrafting this dream into a sustainable reality for not only myself, but other Indigenous makers is a huge motivation for success. Indigenous culture is alive and well and as a Cree-Metis designer, my practice is a journey of bridging the gap between cultural appropriation and reciprocity. Standing as an ambassador for the idea that we are better together here in Canada, I wish to share and tell about the central connection Indigenous culture has with couture design. Challenging stereotypes and opening doors for the reinvigoration of Indigenous design plays a huge role in the impact that Indi City wishes to have with the world.
How did you get involved with PARK?
Can I just say that PARK is so rad! Kara and Jessie are fabulous inspirations. The whole team and everything you folks are doing is awesome. I’m a PARK groupie and have been since 2014 when I first attended ParkLuxe at Telus Spark. I took my then bosses and we enjoyed the VIP treatment. It was then that I declared that one day I was going to show on that runway. Last year, Kara commissioned a set of beaded hoop earrings to be worn on the 2017 CAFA red carpet, which was an incredible honor. Our collaboration continued later in June as a small collection of my beaded earrings accessorized a collaborative PARKSHOW runway alongside LUXX Ready to Wear.
In your opinion, why is it important for people to support independent designers and local artists over fast-fashion and large retail chains?
Always support the little guy as they build because that support could make or break their ability to sustain themselves doing what they love. I personally would rather purchase a pair of shoes or a necklace that was crafted with love energy rather than cold, tired and underpaid energy. Although I believe there is a middle ground here, and not that it’s more of this and less of that. Creating a tangible opportunity to supply these retailers has to be a reality. I believe we need to collab and work together to create sustainability in our local economy.