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Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week shows off First Nations' designs

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Media captionBackstage at Vancouver's first Indigenous Fashion Week

Vancouver is holding its first Indigenous Fashion Week (VIFW), spotlighting designs by Canada's aboriginal peoples.

Almost 60 First Nations designers and models have joined forces for the four-day event, which opened on 26 July.

Many of those on the catwalk are current or former foster children.

The event's organiser, former model Joleen Mitton, said she hoped it would give young indigenous people "a sense of their own culture".

Ms Mitton, 33, has been working with First Nations children in foster care for almost a decade. It was their interest in her fashion past that inspired her to launch the show.

"You wear who you are, and if you're wearing something from your territory, it brings you a sense of self-awareness," CBC quoted her as saying.

"It helps them know who they are, so they don't fall through the cracks of society.

"I'm hoping these girls walk away with a sense of pride in themselves, and in their culture."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Willow Riley models clothes from designer Oka during the inaugural Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Most of the models taking part are from indigenous backgrounds

Indigenous symbols are frequently borrowed by high-fashion labels - and not always sensitively.

In 2012, underwear brand Victoria's Secret apologised for sending supermodel Karlie Kloss down the runway in high-heeled moccasins and a feathered headdress - an item sacred to plains people.

Ms Mitton hopes the VIFW will send a message that people who appreciate indigenous style can get the look respectfully, by buying from First Nations designers.

"This is totally reclaiming what is ours," she said. "[The event] is activism in itself."

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