On Monday, I wrote that if there was one name you needed to know going into Toronto Fashion Week, it was Lesley Hampton. After Hampton debuted her fall/winter 2019 collection last night, my hyperbole still stands. Not only did the 24-year-old deliver a gorgeous array of bold designs — ethereal, wearable, distinctive, and badass — but she also produced a lineup of entirely Indigenous models of different sizes and body types.
Lesley Hampton’s TFW runway was what every fashion show should look like: inclusive, representative of real life, and FUN. The energy in the room matched the vitality that floated down the runway with each look. The excitement kicked off with a striking performance by Juno nominated artist, Iskwe, who sang about Indigenous pain and joy, while bringing some much-needed levity to a generally hard-to-impress fashion crowd. Iskwe lead the room in a call-and-response during her song “The Unforgotten” that was met with trepidation and nervous laughter but ultimately enthusiastic participation.
After Iskwe’s performance, the models walked the runway to a stirring soundtrack provided by A Tribe Called Red in structured bright jumpsuits, striped pleather dresses, and detailed eveningwear. Hampton’s collection is called Eighteen Seventy Six (a reference to creation of the Indian Act, the federal statute that has affected the lives of First Nations people in this country in irreparable ways), and it honours her Indigenous heritage with every stitch.
“This was seen in the use of pleather, to give homage to the traditional way of dress in Indigenous communities,” Hampton said via a press release. “The use of blue highlighted the militant and residential schools’ influence in the community, while the red detailing represented the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.”
Hampton conveyed a powerful message through her designs without compromising her signature elegant aesthetic. Lesley Hampton is a name we’re going to know in Canadian fashion for a very long time.