Curtis Oland looked to his Aboriginal roots when designing his line. PHOTO Courtesy: Mass Exodus

Photo courtesy: Mass Exodus

Student designs indigenous-inspired fashion line

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By Zoe Melnyk

Fourth-year fashion design student Curtis Oland will be debuting his indigenous-inspired menswear clothing collection at this year’s Mass Exodus showcase in the Student Learning Center (SLC) on April 10.

Oland originally found the inspiration for his collection, Harvest ,after spending a couple of months with his family learning about his heritage in Lil’wat Nation in British Columbia last summer.

The Harvest collection consists of five different looks making up a total of 14 pieces. The designing process began last semester, while actually constructing the pieces was the main focus of this semester.

“From a superficial standpoint, it’s very raw and very nature-inspired,” he said. “I’m really drawn to the act of gathering and harvesting materials throughout the seasons in sort of a ritualistic way. You only take what you need.”

Oland explained that every piece of fabric  used to create his art has its own history and connects all of the people that have also created or used that fabric.

Despite being inspired by his indigenous heritage, Oland insists that it is a Canadian collection, not an indigenous one.

“I want to change the perception of what it means to be a First Nations and being an Aboriginal designer,” he said. “I wouldn’t consider my collection to be a traditional Frst Nations collection, it is just a combination of all my experiences growing up.”

Oland added that people are categorized based on their heritage, when in reality, Canada is a melting pot filled with different cultures sharing and collaborating ideas.

“Being Canadian means that we are multicultural, we are very diverse and we come from mixed backgrounds,” he said.

With Mass Exodus approaching, Oland has been working hard to find models that can represent his collection.

“It’s important to me to include my heritage, it’s a big part of my life,” he said.

However, Oland explained that it is difficult to find a range of models in the fashion industry from different backgrounds. After looking for indigenous models to represent his clothing, he had trouble finding ones that were the right fit. He then decided to make his selection diverse rather than indigenous.

The collection started as a gender-neutral line, but after he started looking for models, he felt the clothing suited men more than women and rebranded  it as a menswear collection with “gender neutral tendencies.”

As for the venue, Oland explained that the SLC could be a limiting factor, since there’s significantly less space for spectators. However, he’s confident the show will still be a success.

“It’s just a unique, new venue, but I think it’s a great idea,” he said.

Oland’s love for fashion developed from an early age and grew while he studied visual arts at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver.

“I sort of taught myself by taking apart garments and trying put something new together, it’s become a puzzle that’s really fun to figure out,” he said.

Oland came to Ryerson in 2012 originally for its reputation, but only planned on staying for a year or two.

“I ended up staying here for four years because I realized that I could learn so much more,” he said.

Now that he’s months away from graduation, he’s looking forward to combining his knowledge of art and design by potentially doing a fashion internship in Berlin.

“That’s the most important thing, the cultural exchange and collaborating ideas and sharing experiences with each other,” he said.

 

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