For Vancouver native Angela DeMontigny, her Cree/Metis heritage has always been the foundation of her design inspiration. This down-to-earth lady is a true rockstar, acting also as a stylist, image consultant, event producer, zumba instructor, and mom. Her Aboriginal heritage has been translated into her wares since she launched her label in 1995. While her high-quality pieces come with designer pricing, each garment is made to order, crafted with the finest European leathers and suedes and custom linings and buttons. Bags come in luxe materials like full grain leather, acid wash cowhide and hand-painted python. Her designs are handcrafted by masters of the trade so no two pieces will be identical. The same goes for edgy cuffs, shoulder-length earrings, custom bridal rings, and other jewellery, which showcase colourful semi-precious stones like mookite, citrine, garnet, New Mexico turquoise, and amethyst and the popular Swarovski crystals. With an impressive roster of styling gigs including local celebrities like Laura Cole and wardrobe credits like CTV Canada, Fashion Television, Flare Magazine, and Chatelaine, Angela has brought high Canadian fashion to Hamilton at her eponymous shop DeMontigny Boutique | Gallery.
What’s your earliest fashion memory?
My mom making matching velvet dresses for my sister and I. She usually sewed our ‘good’ outfits for us and did a great job. We loved getting ‘dressed up’ even when I got a bit older and didn’t quite appreciate being dressed the same as my sister.
When did you fall in love with leather and suede?
In my early 20’s but I was too afraid to work with it until I was in my 30’s as it was such an expensive material to work with. I absolutely loved the feel of buttery soft leather and suede. Once I started working with it, I realized this was the material I was meant to use and never looked back. I have been designing exclusively with hide (from casual wear to evening gowns and wedding dresses) for the last 12 years.
For a designer (or wearer) who does not come from a Native heritage, where is the line between cultural appropriation and celebration of aboriginal culture in fashion?
It is considered cultural appropriation when other designers use obvious native designs/cultural inspiration for their product lines without any acknowledgement or recognition of where they came from. These major companies/design houses profit hugely from the cultural art of peoples who are usually quite poor or depressed economically.
Who is the most interesting person you have dressed?
I have had the great pleasure and opportunity to dress many interesting and accomplished people but I would guess that singer/musician Tom Wilson would fit that bill.
Who are some of your favourite Canadian designers and fashion influencers?
For Canadians: Lucien Matis, Denis Gagnon, Stephan Caras and others. International designers would be Roberto Cavalli, Valentino, Balenciaga…
Who is your personal style icon? How has your style evolved since you designed your first line in 1995?
I can’t really say I have a personal style icon…I admire how some of my best clients/friends put themselves together – I love it when people have an artistic flare with how they dress and aren’t afraid to play with colour and accessories. I’ve always had my own style which is a mix of things I love – my own pieces mixed with eclectic items I’ve found in my travels. I think my style has become more refined over the years – I have an edgy but classic look that has a casual glam vibe. I take more risks now but being sexy in an elegant and classy way is always most important to me.
What is the jewellery design process like?
The jewellery is fun because I get to play. I create jewellery based on my fashion designs and can be a bit more playful or extreme with an accessory. Each capsule collection has coordinating jewellery and accessories. I’ve now started designing diamond engagement rings and fine jewellry which has been really exciting for me. I am incorporating symbolism from native culture that has great meaning, especially when this jewellery is representing the love and bond a couple share together. People are looking for meaningful ways to express their love for each other. I’m also using coloured diamonds which are so unique and interesting. They fit in with the other ‘Raw Jewels’ I work with and keep with the unique properties of the stones themselves. The response has been amazing!
Tell us a little bit about your soy candle collection, Lodge.
I couldn’t find an authentic smelling sweetgrass candle and have wanted to create one for many years. I started off with three scents which are culturally significant to native people throughout North America – sage, sweetgrass and white pine. These scents are natural and actually remove negative energy from spaces. They also have an immediate calming effect. Some of my clients keep them unlit at their desk at work and just take off the lid to inhale the scent if they’re feeling stressed at all. I now have nine original scents which are completely unique and as always, influenced by my native culture.
You moved to the Hamilton area in 2003 and opened your store on James St in 2014. How would you describe the fashion scene here?
I’ve lived in rural Ancaster since 2003 and opened my store on James St. N. in Nov. 2014. The fashion scene here is quite interesting….it’s slightly gritty but with an original vibe influenced by the local music and art scene as well. It’s definitely not stuffy or conservative and I feel I bring a bit of edgy, yet understated elegance to the mix.
Where can we find you when you’re not at your shop on James St North?
Teaching Zumba! (I teach classes at 145 Main St. E. Tues. & Thurs. nights), attending art exhibits, live music or out exploring with my teenage daughter.
Visit Angela at DeMontigny Boutique | Gallery at 197 James Street North or shop online.