The rising Cree designer makes his New York runway debut

Scott Wabano, an indigenous fashion designer with two souls who grew up on a small reservation in northern Ontario, took on one of the world’s most important catwalks and made his New York Fashion Week (NYFW) debut earlier this month.

Wabano, a Mushkegowuk from the Moose Factory on the west coast of James Bay, with roots in the Eeyou-Eenou family of the Quebec Cree Nation of Waskaganish, aims to challenge colonial binaries such as gender notions introduced by early settlers.

Using she/them pronouns, Wabano hopes to achieve this through gender-neutral, sustainable streetwear with an indigenous influence.

“The future will be led by the indigenous people. She will also be guided by two spirits. I’m really honored to be able to show that on the runway,” said the designer.

Wabano’s mission is to make Indigenous representation a fashion statement, using black and white designs that incorporate the line’s logo, a stylized teepee, on all fabrics.

“As indigenous peoples, we are already living in post-apocalyptic times due to colonization. I just get so much inspiration from the resilience and strength that many of our people have [from] rise from the ashes of genocide,” said Wabano.

Submitted by Scott Wabano

Submitted by Scott Wabano

Most of the models on the show were Indigenous and included figures such as Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty, Indigenous activist Michelle Chubb, a swampy Cree from the Bunibonibee Cree Nation, and actress-model Braydee Cardinal.

“We’re in a world where our people are already being brought down, so we have to lift each other up and be there for each other because we’re at the forefront,” Chubb said.

Submitted by Lauriane Ogay

Submitted by Lauriane Ogay

Gull-Masty, the first woman elected Grand Chief of Eeyou Istchee (the traditional name for the Quebec Cree area), said she was happy to participate as a volunteer model.

“To see a Cree youth cross a line and come into a space that Eeyou has never been in makes me really proud,” said Gull-Masty.

Vanna Smith/CBC

Vanna Smith/CBC

Cardinal shared her runway experience on TikTok.

“It was special because I was surrounded by so many inspiring indigenous youth. It was a moment of, ‘Wow, indigenous peoples are literally the most resilient, powerful and spirited people,'” Cardinal said.

Wabano made a casting call for models for the February 10 show via Facebook and over 200 people responded for the event, which was organized by Runway 7 Fashion.

The reaction resulted in a cast that included many two-spirit models, something that has been missing in the fashion world, Wabano said.

“I make a real effort to create safe spaces in every door I walk through. Every room is a room with two souls. Every room is a sacred space because I enter these doors, but so do other people with two souls,” Wabano said.

Wabano’s logo is a stylized teepee, representing the historical nomadic lifestyle of their people.

“Every time I think of home, I think of a teepee. For a long time I had trouble finding a home. I felt like I wasn’t at home in myself.[…] The logo somehow represents that. You take it home with you wherever you go,” Wabano said.

Vanna Smith/CBC

Vanna Smith/CBC

Wabano’s own journey to decolonizing gender binaries through advocacy and fashion is just beginning.

After the New York Fashion Week show, they were invited, among other things, to appear at London Fashion Week in September.

Submitted by Scott Wabano

Submitted by Scott Wabano

“Life in the Rez can be tough. I was there. It feels very isolated living so far away from big places like New York City or Toronto,” Wabano said.

“Sometimes our dreams and goals just feel like dreams and goals, but we can make them a reality,” Wabano said. “You come from such a strong bloodline of resilience, love and community. It’s really important to draw on.”

CLOCK | Scott Wabano and Indigenous Models Take on a NYFW Runway:


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