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UVic student attends Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival in Toronto

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Mishelle Lavoie's passion project Capital M will participate in the festival for the second time

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UVic student attends Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival in Toronto

Photo: Courtesy of Mishelle Lavoie

Mishelle Lavoie has always loved being creative. She grew up in a Sahtúot'įnę Métis household in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, and her mother was the first person to teach her how to bead when she was about 10 years old. She started with small designs, like flowers.

“I always wanted to do beading or start beading because I saw a lot of my aunts, my grandmother or my mother doing it,” said Lavoie.

The UVic student – she's currently pursuing her bachelor's degree in general studies and plans to study art therapy later – was fascinated by the beadwork patterns worn by her cousins ​​and other Indigenous cultures. But she didn't get back into the art form until her twenties, when she learned to do more intricate peyote stitch and flat beadwork and fell in love with the craft all over again.

Now she's bringing her beading skills to Toronto to showcase her work at the Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival (IFAW). She'll be there with fellow Victoria-based UVic professor Heather Igloliorte, who will appear on a panel at the festival.

Lavoie launched her pearl earring brand Capital M in 2015 when her son was born. She said motherhood gave her a moment to slow down and reignite her interest in beadwork and design.

Life got hectic again and she paused her work, but resumed it in 2019 when she began playing around with different earring patterns. Working on pearl earrings, she said, was a relaxing and therapeutic experience that “brings back memories.”

She visited IFAW in 2022 and loved the experience, but said the pandemic is still hanging over everyone's heads.

“In 2022, we were still tiptoeing around COVID stuff,” Lavoie said. “So it should be interesting to see how this year plays out compared to last year. I have a feeling it's going to be bigger.”

Despite the pandemic, the 2022 festival allowed Lavoie to connect with other makers who happen to work on or near the island. They introduced her to other local Indigenous designers, creators and resources, such as the Aunty Collective, a space for Indigenous artists in Greater Victoria to connect and showcase their work, which helped her build her network of makers here.

Although she is still busy with her studies and raising her son, she is able to do small batch orders upon request (her work can best be followed on her Instagram account) and is looking forward to building her skills and expanding the brand once she has more free time.

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