Humber Fashion Arts Student and Advocate
Photo courtesy of Bliss Thompson
From the reserve to the catwalk, Scott Wabano is taking the fashion world by storm with a bold image of modern Indigeneity. It wouldn’t be possible, they say, if not for the support and community they found at Humber College.
Scott Wabano (they/them) of the Cree Nation of Waskaganish, was born and raised in Moose Factory, where the nearest city was a boat or helicopter ride, followed by a five-hour train journey away. It may not the be the most typical origin story for a rising star in the fashion world, but Scott is hoping that it becomes a more common one.
“There was not very much Indigenous representation in media of any sort when I was young,” Scott recalls. “I grew up on the fashion magazines and pop culture magazines that were available at the convenience stores in my community and I never saw Indigenous people in them. I was also bullied a lot because I was very feminine and there was not much understanding about Two-Spirit people or gay people in the community. There was a lot of lateral violence stemming from the history of colonization and the residential school system. My form of escapism from all that was media and fashion.”
I don’t think it’s possible to decolonize fashion, but we can Indigenize it.
Finding the Reserve in the City
Upon moving to Toronto, Scott was looking to break into the fashion world and bring Indigenous representation to the business in a way they had never seen before. They wanted to build their base of skills and knowledge at a major learning institution but also needed to feel grounded and connected to their culture while doing so. They found that opportunity and got a strong start at Humber College’s Indigenous Education and Engagement (IEE) department.
“I managed to find my home,” Scott says of the IEE. “I found family and friends from all over and I’m so grateful for them. I love how diverse the community in Toronto is and that cultural exchange, that cultural appreciation, it’s just so beautiful. I’d only ever known my Cree people’s way of life, the Eeyou. Now I have friends from the Inuit people, the Nakota Sioux people, the Anishinaabe Ojibwe people, the Mi’kmaq people, the Iroquois people. It’s really inspiring, and it’s an honour to be a part of this whole movement of young people fighting for recognition and representation and respect.”
Scott’s own chosen role in that battle is the Indigenizing of the fashion industry and, since studying in their Fashion Arts and Business diploma program, the victories have been piling up. Their first streetwear collection, under the Wabano brand, was released this May and sold out within two days. Their work with the Lesley Hampton brand is winning awards. And they’ll be debuting a new film at Toronto Pride that they wrote while at Humber.
Scott’s success is their own, but they are more than willing to credit Humber and the IEE with making it possible. “Me and the IEE are tight,” Scott says. “I don’t think of them as this service or these people that helped me. I think of them as family. They’re my brothers, they’re my sisters, they’re my aunties, they’re my uncles. They’ve helped guide me to where I am today.”