Justine Woods has been selected as the 2020 Junction Artist-in-Residence three-month program in Haines Junction. Woods is an interdisciplinary Métis fashion designer, visual storyteller and indigenous beader currently based in Toronto. (Submitted)

Métis artist decolonizes western-style clothes with beadwork

Justine Woods is the recipient of an arts residency in Haines Junction

Justine Woods uses fashion as a vehicle for decolonization. This, said the Ontario-based Métis artist, is front and centre to her practice. She does so by “defacing” western garments, adorning them with beadwork.

“I’m talking about using fashion to amplify Indigenous voices, to touch on topics surrounding the way that Indigenous people are perceived within contemporary society, also to celebrate Indigenous culture, she said. “For me, it’s really important to freely celebrate my culture, and I’ve really honed in on using clothing adornment practices, both contemporary and traditional as a way to communicate these ideas through beadwork.

“I’ve been really focusing on reinterpreting western styles and kind of defacing them with Indigenous beadwork, kind of flipping that narrative of power and colonialism, things like that.”

The 23-year-old recently secured a Haines Junction residency. The three-month, Junction Artist-in-Residence program, which starts in July, will introduce Woods to a slew of artists from that community, providing her with an opportunity to become both teacher and student.

“(I want) to be able to give back to the community through my work,” said Woods, who’s from the Georgian Bay Métis Community, near Midland-Penetanguishene, Ontario

It went like this for Woods: She studied fashion and design at Ryerson University, where she specialized in custom bespoke tailoring. Wanting to integrate her culture in some way, she took it a step further, sewing beads into custom fitted clothes that are testaments to her culture.

Her work includes blazers and peacoats bedecked with intricate, floral motifs on or near lapels. The splashes of beadwork draw the eye, but they’re balanced, likely to showcase the clothes themselves.

The designs hinge on what clients’ want. Woods gets to the know them. Her beadwork reflects their personality, where they come from, regardless of whether they’re Indigenous or settlers. She said having both participate in her work is “powerful” because it acts as a bridge between cultures.

Asked about this dynamic, how she feels about settlers wearing what can be considered traditional designs, she said, “I feel it’s important for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to support Indigenous designers and artists through wearing their work, especially within the fashion industry.

“I mean, there is a fine line when it comes to appreciation and appropriation and I think that comes down to understanding and taking the time to respectfully understand the meaning behind the piece that you’re wearing, the artist who made, their background, why they made it, the significance behind, say, the beadwork. I think the education there is really important when it comes to settlers wanting to purchase Indigenous designs.”

The Indian Act barred Indigenous people from being active participants in their cultures, outlawing certain ceremonies, she said.

But now there’s a legion of artists, like Woods, who are reclaiming that culture and exhibiting it to the masses. That’s why, she said, fashion is such an effective tool, and why it’s important for everyone, all Canadians, to be involved, provided it helps roll back some historical wrongdoings.

“I feel like most commonly within the industry fashion is associated aesthetically, but I feel that it’s such an amazing tool to communicate, and, with me, I’ve always had a passion for fashion. Being able to combine the two in my practice has been really important for me.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, electionsyukon.ca has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Yukon NDP leader Kate White, surrounded by socially distanced candidates, announces her platform in Whitehorse on March 29. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Kate White and the Yukon NDP Platform

A detailed look at the NDP platform and Kate White’s leadership campaign this election

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read