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Global Designer Spotlight: Young Native from Ancaster, Canada

Actress and R&B singer, Ay Jihu for Young Native Fashion

Actress and R&B singer, Ayi Jihu for Young Native


Stitch-by-stitch storytelling.


By: Hina P. Ansari


Having grown up in North Vancouver and White Rock, British Columbia and currently based in Ancaster Ontario, fashion designer and stylist, Angela DeMontigny wanted to be able to capture the true essence of Canada’s Native community from one stitch to the next. With over 20 years of industry experience under her belt, she launched her  Young Native  collection. A line — steadily buoyed by her native heritage — lends itself to historical awareness and cultural relevance all the while bringing an elevated level of heritage haute for fashion enthusiasts across the Canadian style landscape. Cue: a collaboration with Chinese film star (and leading Chinese R&B crossover artist), Ayi Jihu which in turn has given DeMontigny a unique global edge and a pretty fierce brand ambassador to boot. When she’s not styling, designing or dancing (another one of her favorite things), she sat down and shared her thoughts on the Canadian fashion scene, the importance of connecting with your roots and the beauty of ‘extreme originality’.




Designer Angela DeMontigny

Designer Angela DeMontigny



What made you decide to get into the fashion business?


I’ve loved fashion since a young girl and being very artistic, found that I was always sketching dresses and outfits in school. I love the freedom of being able to create art that you wear.



Who inspired you when you were just starting out?


At that time, Lida Baday and Linda Lundstrom were Canadian designers  I found inspiring, along with designers like Donna Karan, Halston, Dior and Jean-Paul Gaultier.



Who inspires you now?


Roberto Cavalli, Etro, Canadian native artist George Littlechild, Chinese star Ayi Jihu — people in general who are fearless and have cultivated their own personal style despite fashion trends.


Actress and R&B singer, Ay Jihu for Young Native Fashion

Actress and R&B singer, Ayi Jihu for Young Native


Actress and R&B singer, Ay Jihu for Young Native Fashion

Actress and R&B singer, Ayi Jihu for Young Native



Has your sources of inspiration changed in any way?


Yes, I am more inspired by people and things which are more avant garde and outside the norm.  I love seeing extreme originality which is honest and courageous.



What part of the day best inspires you?


Morning although I tend to be a night owl.



From where do you gather your inspiration?


My own native culture, nature, art (especially Indigenous art and historical, cultural items from all over the world), people and their lives ie. careers, personalities, passions; music and photography.



Actress and R&B singer, Ay Jihu for Young Native Fashion

Young Native  – Colour Bloc collection


Young Native Fashion -- Black N Bronze collection

Young Native  – Black N Bronze collection



What is the story board/inspiration behind the “Live Free, Love Free” Young Native Fashion Collection?


Well the debut of the Young Native Collection is about ‘Living Free’ in that you can be authentic and original with your own style and to celebrate your own ethnicity and uniqueness. It’s about free thinking and having a youthful spirit. I designed four distinct groupings within this initial collection to give women a variety of options that could work in any environment. Bright and colorful day wear (Color Bloc), Authentic and original, wearable art tees (Spirit Tees), pretty and sophisticated separates (Gold and Purple) and of course some sexy and dramatic evening wear (Black ‘N Bronze).



I see that your vision is to really celebrate the Native Canadian roots. Can you expand on that philosophy?


I have always loved the beauty, simplicity, color and artistry of native culture and seeing as this stems from my own heritage, I try to work these elements into my designs. This creates an authenticity and defines my style which I feel is ‘Originally Canadian’.  I wish that everyone who wears my clothing and accessories feels that connection and feels free to make a statement and embrace their ethnicity….It’s really about honoring your ‘individuality’.


Young Native Fashion -- Purple & Gold collection

Young Native  – Gold & Purple collection


Gorgeous coat by Young Native Fashion

Gorgeous coat by Young Native





Tell me about the S.Q.U.A.W. Tee-shirt.


I’ve been thinking for a while about creating a statement item that was meant to make people think. I wanted to challenge people’s perceptions of a word that was viewed or used in a negative manner (in a racial context) even though the actual meaning of the word wasn’t negative. I took each letter of the word SQUAW (which in general terms means Native Woman) and attributed a positive word to each letter: SPIRITUAL  QUINTESSENTIAL  UNIQUE  ABORIGINAL  WOMAN.


This exercise pertains to how people accept (or not) racial slurs being used towards them and in looking at the ‘taking back’ of those words if they were original words used in a negative context. This addresses colonialism and how people have decided to accept those colonial attitudes instead of fighting them. I for one, refuse to accept a negative definition or connotation to a word that simply describes myself as a native woman.




Young Native Fashion SQUAW tees

Young Native’s  SQUAW tees



Tell me about your working relationship with Ayi Jihu with your fashion line.


Ayi and I met in Toronto as ‘Women of Action’ for the launch of  the Toronto based ‘A Celebration of Women’ Foundation in Dec. 2011. She loved my style and work and along with her manager, Stephen ‘Eagle’ Ellis, saw a unique opportunity to work together and fuse our cultural backgrounds to create something different and ‘outside the box’. I now design and style for her personally for her music videos, performances and special events/appearances.



So that  led to you designing costumes for Jihu’s upcoming film Fear Chaser. How exciting!


Yes, she loved my fashion designs so much and the subtle, cultural influences I use that she asked me to redesign her new Fear Chaser costume for her upcoming movie. I was given a rare opportunity to advise on some cultural influences in the storyline of the movie itself and helped them design the Fear Chaser logo as well. There are a number of ethic/cultural influences within the movie which are all reflected in the costume design. It was right up my alley ;-).



Ay Jihu in Fear Chaser, costume designed by Angela DeMontigny

Ayi Jihu in Fear Chaser, costume designed by Angela DeMontigny


Ay Jihu in Fear Chaser, costume designed by Angela DeMontigny

Ayi Jihu in Fear Chaser, costume designed by Angela DeMontigny



How do you unwind?


I dance! I teach Zumba classes to have fun and keep fit. I also walk in nature whenever possible to feel grounded and connected and meditate/pray regularly.



What makes the fashion scene in Canada so unique? What about the fashion scene in your city?


Canadian fashion has some geographical or weather related considerations so I can say that since I live in the east and winters are much colder than on the west coast, I tend to design more fur and shearling items. The local fashion scene is pretty understated which motivates me to inspire women here to take a few more risks or try new styles with their wardrobes.



How does (if it does) the Canadian fashion consumer differ from other consumers?


Canadians in general seem to be rather conservative dressers (with the exception of French Canadians) and I attribute that to Canada still holding that British influence of being understated, polite, not too radical and not too flashy. Americans are quite the opposite in comparison.



Ay Jihu (centre) for Young Native Fashion

Ayi Jihu (centre) for Young Native



What is unique about your own clientele in terms of their fashion sensibility?


They are for the most part, ready to embrace something new and are very interested in wearing fashion and accessories that are unique and original. They are not ‘label hounds’. Most of my clients have a strong sense of who they are and want to present their individuality through their clothing.  Quite a few of them are also art collectors and involved in some form of creative industry, music, etc. They ALL appreciate good quality and workmanship, beautiful materials and excellent customer service.



Are there any challenges with respect to your business in terms of awareness etc.?


Well, I have to admit it’s a challenge being a fashion designer in Canada at this point in time. Unfortunately, the majority of the population have become more interested in buying, cheaply made, disposable clothing imported from Asian countries. I am one of the few,  Canadian designers in this country working on an international level but still committed to ‘MADE IN CANADA’. I have always believed in ‘quality vs. quantity’ and support the many talented craftsmen we still have here.



How does social media play a part in your overall branding?


It’s an integral part of my overall branding as it enables me to interact with potential and existing clients, provides me with the ability to test market new designs and items, and allows my fans to promote for me. It’s the best tool to reach a global marketplace and keep everyone up to date with new collections, events and happenings.



Ay Jihu (centre) for Young Native Fashion

Ayi Jihu (centre) for Young Native



What advice would you give to up-and-coming designers and design students who are interested in following this career path?


Do some time in the retail fashion industry, learn how to sell, wardrobe customers, listen to what they want and are looking for and provide them with it.



What is the best advice you’ve received and still treasure today?


The advice about working in retail :-) and creating a completely unique design/item that will become the foundation of what you’re ‘recognized’ or known for.


You can connect with the designer in the following ways:










Photography courtesy of Young Native 

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