Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week Takes on Year Four With Its Biggest Stage Yet

Taking place November 20 to 25, this year's Indigenous Fashion Week is runway ready to inspire a movement.

For its first three years, Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week was held in the atrium of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. It’s a beautiful space, but the 2023 event has officially outgrown it. “Last year, we were overflowing with traffic,” shares Joleen Mitton, founder of VIFW. This November, models will rock the runway inside the theatre itself, which has over 2,000 seats.

Joleen Mitton

VIFW 2023 will feature fashion shows, art, music and dance, plus a marketplace where attendees can purchase ready-to-wear clothing and jewellery. (“Our earring game at VIFW is really strong,” says Mitton.) All are welcome: “You don’t have to be Indigenous; we want everyone to come and purchase goods from us to support our circular economy,” says the founder. The five-day event will include designs from locals like Debra Sparrow, Pam Baker and Chief Janice George, as well as international artists (one is Patricia Michaels, a New Mexico-based designer whose work was recently worn by actress Tantoo Cardinal on the Cannes red carpet).

The tremendous growth and design-icon attendance has been rewarding, but Mitton says she’s most proud of VIFW’s mentorship program. “We bring in youth from all around Turtle Island to come and learn from the best,” she explains—from design to makeup to backstage and admin positions, Indigenous youth can gain work experience and learn about the world of fashion. Mitton notes that many of the young people who take part in the mentorship program grew up in foster care, and that the week begins with a Red Dress event held in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

We’re just reminding people that they matter—being able to be seen as beautiful Indigenous people is protection, and we can all hold each other a bit tighter,” says Mitton. “What we’re trying to create here is a movement—it’s not just a fashion show.”



DATES November 20 to 25

VENUE Queen Elizabeth Theatre

COST From $20

This story was originally published in the November 2023 issue of Vancouver Magazine.