Canadian Metis visual artist Christi Belcourt can now add fashion to her list of achievements.
One of the world’s top fashion designers has partnered with Belcourt in their 2016 Resort collection.
The Italian-based Valentino collection revealed two weeks ago features stunning flowery, elegant pieces based upon Belcourt’s ‘Water Song’ painting found in the National Gallery of Canada.
“It was a very good experience,” said Belcourt. “It’s just been wonderful to work with them all around. They were extremely respectful.”
Valentino representatives contacted her via email a couple of months ago saying they had saw her art and were interested in working with her. However, Belcourt wanted to be sure she did some research before jumping on board.
In recent years the mainstream fashion industry has appropriated Native cultural designs which has caused offense to some artists and nations whose artistic designs were replicated without permission.
Belcourt was happy they approached her to collaborate but was more impressed to learn that Valentino is eco-conscious.
“The number one thing to me is always, not only how we’re treated as Indigenous peoples, but how is the environment treated. I was really pleased and surprised that Valentino is ranked number one by Greenpeace for all top fashion designers. They have built into their company environmentally and socially conscious steps and they’ve also committed to eliminate all hazardous materials by the year 2020.”
The “Water Song” piece is an “ode to water,” said Belcourt, who believes that water is the most pressing issue of modern times.
“I think we all have an obligation and responsibility to protect the waters of the earth,” she said.
Using her art to create awareness on social issues also intertwines with her work advocating for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. She is involved with the Walking With Our Sisters travelling exhibit and says the fashion designs help to portray women in a broader light.
“There’s a correlation between the environment and the way that Indigenous people are treated and how the aggression to our lands parallels to our bodies as Indigenous women. So, it’s all linked together,” she said. “For me it’s certainly not about a high profile or any type of career. I don’t see it as that…only if we can produce beautiful things that remind people of our responsibilities as human beings to the environment and to each other.”
The collection titled, The Resort, features 80 pieces of which Belcourt’s designs are used in numbers 2 through 10.
The couture designs feature floor length dresses, jackets and two piece ensembles. They are feminine, soft and enchanting featuring silky, lace, sheer and other amalgamated fabrics with classic Metis flower art patterns reminiscent of beadwork.
“They’re just gorgeous, contemporary pieces. They’re not, however trying to replicate traditional regalia or anything like that.”
It’s a dream come true for the artist, who is originally from Lac Ste. Anne, Alta., and now lives near the shores of Lake Huron, Ont.