Robyn McLeod 2023 Longlist
From Fort Providence, Northwest Territories, Robyn McLeod is of Dene, Métis, and Scottish descent and a member of the Deh Gáh Got’ı̨ę First Nation in the Dehcho Region of the NWT. Robyn is a multi-disciplinary artist, practicing fashion design, traditional Dene art, digital art, Moosehide tanning, and mixed media. Robyn has studied fashion at the Blanche Macdonald Centre and Visual Art at SOVA (the Yukon School of Visual Art). In 2019, Robyn was named the Yukon winner of the BMO 1st Art! Competition for her mixed-media piece, Dene Futurisms.
Dene Futurism is threading together traditional knowledge, technology and unifying them together into a future present with in the cosmos. Its important to be able to imagine Dene still being here, despite facing misrepresentation and erasure within many aspects but especially through art. Its important to show that despite all the barriers we face, together we are still resisting, resilient and practising self determination.
Caribou antler, gold cow hide, black and white plaid fabric, zipper and cotton thread, vintage Ronkonkoma and mooshide fringe
Alot of my inspiration comes from researching and looking through old photos from the Deh Cho region in the Northwest Territories. It wasn’t too long ago that that people came to the north and decided to extract resources that previously was thought to be barren. Many people came up and brought with them beads, fabrics and guns ect. Alot of processed were lost and indigenous woman adapted to these new products.
One of these fabrics were tartan plaid fabrics. Woman would imitate the fashion of the day into their own clothing. I saw so many photos of woman wearing long skirts with button up shirts. It was interesting making this outfit. I brought some of the past and my own imagined futuristics ideas together.
I designed/ made this outfit while I was in my last trimester of pregnancy. I really wanted to complete my fashion line but realized I couldn’t push myself too hard. This is the last photo for awhile of my collection. The last jacket is in the works and will be showcased in my stories as the process comes along. It’s very experimental work for me.
Upholstery striped fabric, satin ribbons, wolverine fur, silk nylon lining
The Aunty dress was the dress that became the most meaningful to me and has got some of the best reactions from the social media world. I think it is because I put a lot of love and my feelings that derived from grief and the departing of my auntie to the spirit world. So it’s a powerful piece that I probably wont ever be able to part with. I created it during the height of the pandemic.
This dress is adorned with satin ribbon and I tried to get all the colours of the rainbow. The rainbow is something that always brought me joy as a child. There is also wolverine strips along side the ribbons. I designed this dress in 2019. At that time I had not seen anyone doing ribbon dresses this way. I figured I would put my own spin into the circle and healing of this dress. The wolverine was trapped by a friends husband in Fort McPherson, NWT.
"Moosehide and Gold"
Moosehide, duipioni silk, silk nylon lining and vintage ribbon and interfacing
Many of my designs in the Dene Futurisms collection my whole goal was to create contemporary pieces with a Dene traditional artistry twist. I love being able to create using materials such as moose hide which has been traditional processed and worked on for hundreds of hours and has been done that way for thousands of years. I love imagining Dene culture and our history of adapting with futuristic ideas but still keeping it traditional and remembering/rediscovering old processes of expressing ourselves through clothing.
I designed this dress not realizing that it would be one of the most difficult outfits in the collection to physically create. First of all, the skirt was made out of 3 very thick layers. So in my testing and sewing of the skirt the sizing shrunk. When it came to cutting my precious moosehide, I had anxiety and was terrified of doing it wrong. My Elder mentor suggested I shouldn’t make the dress (because of the strange design we both didn’t entirely understand). I considered that reality for a while but then decided I wouldn’t be happy until I reached my goal design. In the end, after fighting with the thickness, size and weight of the skirt on my sewing machine. I eventually was able to complete it.
My Elder mentor now has faith that I can make anything out of nothing after I showed her the completed project. Moral of the story always do a mock up with material you won’t cry over.
Velvet fabric, glass beads vintage ribbon and zipper
This is the fishtail outfit. It is made with fully front beadwork and a porcupine quilled fringed belt. The design and luxury of the piece is so beautiful. The inspiration of the belt comes from Dene culture and what we would wear around our waists. It was very common piece that is no longer apart of clothing fashion in the modern fashion of Dene peoples lives.
Moosehide, 24k gold and glass beads, printed cotton lining with sinew
This was the dress I was most excited about designing and couldn’t believe it when I saw it come into fruition. It’s crazy to draw the design on paper, create the patterns, construct the garments and see your dreams come true.
I made it with dupioni gold silk, moosehide and beads. My sister Shawna McLeod did the beadwork. The lining was sewn on by my Elder mentor Doris Bob from Ross River, Yukon. I didn’t want to cover up the stitches because I felt that it was a big part of the story of the outfit.
"Cosmic Hide Tanner"
Moosehide and Netted
Commercial rabbit fur, moosehide and glass beads with dupioni silk lining