The Designer | Lesley Hampton
Designer Lesley Hampton has been a leading the way for Indigenous representation in the fashion industry since she burst onto the scene in 2016. This year, she returned to the runway at Toronto’s Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival, and also headlined the city’s Fashion Art Toronto fall showcase in November. In doing so, she made a statement on and off the runway with her commitment to diversity. Hampton is known for her size-inclusive designs, and her recent collection was no exception. She also featured a model with physical disabilities, a model with Down syndrome and a queer model and advocate for HIV/Aids on the runway, among strong BIPOC representation — all unfortunately still groundbreaking choices for an industry that still prioritizes cis, white, thin and non-disabled bodies.
By Scott Wabano, fashion stylist
When we think of authentic representation, body positivity and mental health awareness within fashion, Lesley Hampton is the name that will forever be mentioned in communities across Turtle Island. From bringing an all-Indigenous cast to the Toronto fashion runways, to winning two Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards and being named as the number one designer to watch by Vogue Magazine, Lesley Hampton is the Anishnaabe artist the industry needed to shine light on the colonial perspectives that were set in place within fashion. And she was back on the runway this year headlining the Fashion Art Toronto Fall Fashion Week with one of the most diverse model lineups ever seen. Lesley and I first became acquainted through our mutual love and support for Indigenous businesses, where we worked together on helping create more space for Indigenous voices and artists. She has always had a way with bringing such important messages and conversations to the forefront with the use of art, fashion and media. Mentoring Indigenous youth such as myself shows us that we no longer have to sacrifice any parts of our identities or personalities to fit within colonial standards. The way she carries herself as a strong Anishnaabe woman and continually uplifts her communities should be celebrated. She has paved a path for many others to follow, showing that Indigenous voices are not only welcomed within fashion, but are now honored and valued thanks to her presence and impact. Chinaskimitin nimis!