By: Tanya Debi
Kim Picard has been in the fashion industry since 1996 and is based out of Quebec, Canada. Picard’s inspirations help her create her works of art.
“First and foremost, my culture is what inspires me the most. I feel that I honour my ancestors when I make aboriginal designs, especially when I create Innu (Montagnais) designs,” Picard said.
But she also credits something else that is very personal to her.
“I’m also very inspired by my dreams. I am someone who dreams a lot, sometimes I develop designs based on the animals and symbols I’ve seen in my dreams,” Picard said. “I always try to study the symbols and their meanings, which are very important to me.”
Picard is also fascinated with contemporary designers, and she gets inspiration from them as well.
“I particularly like the designers Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Narciso Rodriguez, Isabel Marant, Ellie Saab, Denis Gagnon, Prabal Gurung and Zuhair Murad. My favourite designers are Gianni Versace and Alexander McQueen”
The article, The Age of Cultural Appropriation, touched on the misuse of Aboriginal symbols and elements in fashion and how offensive the misuse can be. Picard explains that the real problem is that education is lacking in this area and people really need to do their research on what certain elements mean.
“On the non-Aboriginal side there is some ignorance about the meaning of the symbols that I use on my clothes. Aboriginal people generally know these meanings (the properties of animals, their spiritual meanings, etc) but not all. There is still some teaching to do at this level because we lost much of our traditional knowledge as a result of colonization,” Picard said. “For example, some symbols can represent clans or communities. Once non-Natives learn the meaning of the symbols on my clothes, they understand the approach and the fact that it contains a strong and significant message.”
The false image of the sexy Indian is particularly hard for Picard to understand, because of the status of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. It is personal for her because one of her family members is one of those who is still missing.
“Back in 2008, I heard a lot about the program Sisters in Spirit (SIS), who worked on the issue of the 500 Aboriginal women missing and/or murdered back then and who is an initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). I saw a few presentations about this cause and every time I felt very useless, frustrated and sad,” Picard said. “In September 2008, I was at a non-violence training workshop in Prince-Edward-Island and there was a presentation of SIS by the former President of NWAC, Beverly Jacobs. I was very moved by her presentation, I never knew that she lost her own family member too, that her cousin is one of the now 1200 missing and/or murdered women. At the end she mentioned two teenage girls missing from Kitigan Zibi, Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander. I became very emotional because Shannon Alexander is my cousin and she was reported missing two weeks before my workshop. Back then, she said that there were 509 women missing or murdered in Canada, there is more now.”
Many people don’t know the details about this ongoing tragic situation happening right in our own backyard or many people don’t know about it all. Picard is trying to make people aware of the situation and she is using her fashion skills to do so.
“I was thinking about all those missing women and I thought about different ways or strategies to bring more awareness to the population because it never made the front pages in the media. Then I saw two very beautiful feathers on the ground and I grabbed them,” Picard said. “I was thinking about Shannon and Maisy and associated them with the two feathers. As I was walking I arrived near a huge field and there were several feathers on the ground! I thought about all the lost women on the fields. My heart broke and then I had a dream of a dress with 509 feathers and each feather representing each woman.”
The number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is now more than 1,000. This is why it is important to understand what certain elements mean in certain cultures. The image of the sexy Indian doesn’t exist. Instead of exploiting something that is made up, efforts should be put towards this real situation, a situation that needs attention.
Thank you to Kim Picard for sharing her inspirations, dreams and personal tragedy with unDone magazine. Keep bringing awareness to this topic and keep making fashion meaningful.
Both Shannon and Maisy have been missing since 2008 and still haven’t been found. For more information on their story, visit http://www.findmaisyandshannon.com/