The Influence Agency created our Behind the Gram series to share our platform with Influencers and Creators from within marginalized communities, providing them with an opportunity to speak out on different issues that are an inherent part of their story and culture so we can learn from them.
This month, TIA Executive Producer, Brigitte Truong, sits down with Lesley Hampton and Scott Wabano, two members of the Indigenous community in Canada who graciously and honestly share their thoughts on Indigenous culture today, Indigenous representation, and advice to us, as allies, on how we can do better to support the Indigenous community.
Below, our full interview with internationally renowned Indigenous designer, Lesley Hampton.
Brigitte Truong: What is your name, and what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Indigenous culture?
Lesley Hampton: My name is Lesley Hampton. I’m an Indigenous artist, designer, focused on mental health awareness, body positivity, and authentic representation in fashion and media. Indigenous culture to me means community. It means uplifting one another and showcasing our strength and our perseverance.
BT: Can you tell us which Indigenous nation you are from, and a little bit about that nation?
LH: I’m from Temagami First Nations located in Northern Ontario, and I also identify as a third-culture kid. So, I didn’t actually grow up in community; I ended up growing up internationally. Since coming back to Canada at the age of 18, I’ve rediscovered my Indigeneity and defined it for myself.
BT: What do you value most about being a part of the Indigenous community?
LH: Being a part of the Indigenous community, I really value the community that we create. Being a fashion designer, the Indigenous fashion community is so uplifting and so supportive to one another. It’s just great to show authentic representation in the fashion industry, to be able to push for that greater ray of representation, and to have that transition to uplifting everybody.
BT: Can you tell us about a fellow Indigenous creative whose work has had an impact on you?
LH: For sure, a fellow Indigenous creative that has had a great impact on me is Scott Wabano. He’s a Two-Spirit Indigenous artist and designer who started with me as an intern and then we progressed into a wonderful friendship and chosen family. We’ve also partnered on a Hampton Wabano jacket which was a great piece to be a part of because I was teaching him about the fashion community and in-and-outs of creating a fashion business. At the same time he was teaching me about the teachings that could be involved within the jacket, and certain aspects of the Indigenous culture that I didn’t grow up with, so I didn’t know them. Just to have that back and forth in that creative field or creative feelings through a fashion field was just so incredible.
BT: We actually have Scott lined up to be a part of this as well. I see there’s so much overlap in what you all do, which is awesome.
LH: Perfect! Absolutely.
BT: Social media activism has accelerated over the past year with millions around the world posting, reposting, and sharing content that really reflects their stance on social issues. But in your opinion, what does it mean to be a genuine ally today?
LH: Being a genuine ally today, I would say it’s not only creating a platform and lending your voice, but also making a space where others can reclaim their voice and their strength. So not only talking about it, but allowing other people to come into their voice and talk about their own struggles and through talking about it is where the healing will come in.
BT: Thank you. I really appreciate you speaking on that. Now, when it comes to learning about, understanding, and connecting with Indigenous Peoples, what more can we all respectively do at home?
LH: To learn more about Indigenous people, I would say first and foremost read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action. They have a vast range of recommendations that could be applied to every field, whether it has to do with education or politics or communications. I think that’s a great starting point for someone who wants to figure out how they can help and uplift the Indigenous community and help us all benefit.
The TRC Calls to Action is a full 42-point recommendation of how you can help. That was put together in conjunction with the Indigenous community and the Canadian government. It’s a great avenue to look for across all fields.
I would say look at incredible aspects within your field, so for myself, being in fashion, I would look at the artists and designers who are featured in Indigenous fashion in Toronto. Because their work, even though it is fashion or art, it is very political and it’ll be a good stepping stone into the struggles that Indigenous Peoples overcome and then what we could do to move forward.
BT: Excellent – thank you for that. I’d like to talk a little bit about marketing now. How can brands do better when it comes to inclusion in national or global campaigns? This is a question that I’ve been asking a lot of BIPOC creatives the past year because there’s a lot of discussion of brands jumping on the bandwagon, not wanting to be cancelled because we are kind of a “cancel-culture” now. If we can all, as creatives, offer advice to these brands nationally and globally, what would you offer?
LH: I would recommend global and national brands to always make sure that the diversity is there. Not only in the faces that they’re representing but also in the decision-making process. To be sure that the diversity and the inclusivity is featured at the executive levels so that people aren’t left behind and it’s not tokenism or a checkmark. It’s real, true change, and it starts from the inside out.
BT: I do want to circle back if we can, about being able to share your culture and lived experience in your chosen path. So, how has fashion allowed you to explore your own lived experiences as an Indigenous creative?
LH: My lived experiences are at the intersection between my Indigeneity and my third-culture background. Fashion has really been a catalyst for me to explore both sides of my identity and be able to critique certain aspects of those factors in my identity and really explore what it means to be Indigenous in 2021 and what it means to discover my Indigeneity for myself. So fashion and all its fast avenues, whether it’s Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week or Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, there’s so many great avenues where I’m surrounded by community and we all are surrounded by community to then uplift and learn from one another. As a creative, I really learn the best with my hands and with creative garments and accessories.
BT: You sure do! Those are all the questions that I have, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and your voice, it’s always such a pleasure catching up with you, Lesley.
LH: Awesome, thank you so much for having me, I’m excited for this and we’ll be in touch!
Thank you Lesley for taking the time to share your stories and your experiences as an Indigenous Creative. To learn more about Lesley you can follow her on Instagram at @lesley_hampton and visit her website: lesleyhampton.com5
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