October 1, 2020

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Designer puts focus on sustainable clothing

Fashion company draws from Métis roots

>Andréanne Dandeneau, designer of Anne Mulaire, formerly known as VOILÀ Designs, makes sustainable fashions, inspired by her Métis roots. (Shannon Vanraes / Winnipeg Free Press)

>Andréanne Dandeneau, designer of Anne Mulaire, formerly known as VOILÀ Designs, makes sustainable fashions, inspired by her Métis roots. (Shannon Vanraes / Winnipeg Free Press)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/9/2019 (369 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s not always easy to find clothing that is both ethically made and looks great, but a new fashion boutique launching in South Osborne this weekend is poised to change that.

Anne Mulaire, formerly known as VOILÀ Designs, is a Métis fashion company whose priority is sustainability while making comfortable, stylish clothing you can move in.

"We knit our own fabric in Ontario. The quality is amazing because we knit it in Canada. It’s soft and it lasts a long time," says owner and designer Andréanne Dandeneau.

Dandeneau started her own fashion company in 2005 after making the difficult choice between pursuing fashion or contemporary dance as a career. Though she ultimately chose the former, Dandeneau continues to work in the dance world as a costume designer and uses her dance background for design inspiration.

"The dance world gave me the gift of knowing movement and body shapes," she says.

"It taught me how to create garments that you can live and move in."

That quality of movement can be traced to the fabrics Dandeneau uses, which are environmentally friendly and safe to make and wear.

Dandeneau, designer of sustainable Indigenous fashions, prepares for an upcoming collection. (Shannon Vanraes / Winnipeg Free Press)

Dandeneau, designer of sustainable Indigenous fashions, prepares for an upcoming collection. (Shannon Vanraes / Winnipeg Free Press)

"Fifteen years ago, we used a lot of cotton. I began doing research and discovered that pesticides are used to grow cotton. Safe fabric is important to me, not just for environmental sustainability but for health."

Dandeneau switched to fabrics including organic linen and hemp, but these days her garments are primarily made from bamboo.

"Bamboo feels like silk but washes like cotton. It’s a beautiful renewable fibre. Once you’ve gone bamboo, you can never go back!"

While her use of fabrics is forward-thinking, the art featured in Dandeneau’s designs is firmly rooted in the past. Dandeneau, who is Métis from St. Boniface, exclusively uses Métis artists for her designs. Some of her most prolific collaborators are also family members.

Catherine Mulaire — Dandeneau’s maternal ancestor — was an Indigenous school teacher who married a voyageur. She serves as the inspiration behind the embroidery featured in the new Anne Mulaire collection.

"She embroidered the vine pattern featured on many of our items. She was taught the technique by the Grey Nuns and made it her own with the wildflower design."

Dandeneau’s father is also featured in many of Anne Mulaire’s best-selling pieces, including many of its leggings.

"My dad created our company logo and our main print, the Spirit of the North," she adds. "It’s very Haida-inspired, but he brought a Métis influence into it to represent Manitoba. It is a stylized version of the traditional flower that symbolizes the Métis people."

“We knit our own fabric in Ontario. The quality is amazing because we knit it in Canada. It’s soft and it lasts a long time,” says Dandeneau. (Shannon Vanraes / Winnipeg Free Press)

“We knit our own fabric in Ontario. The quality is amazing because we knit it in Canada. It’s soft and it lasts a long time,” says Dandeneau. (Shannon Vanraes / Winnipeg Free Press)

Both of these designs are featured in the new Héritage collection, which debuts at the Anne Mulaire boutique this weekend.

Surprisingly, a boutique wasn’t always something Dandeneau had in mind when she began her fashion career.

"It was never my idea to do a boutique. This place started as a showroom, but more and more people came and now it’s a boutique! You can come here and shop."

And the shopping experience at Anne Mulaire is as unique as their garments.

"I think what’s missing these days in fashion is the customized touch. I’ve trained my staff to really know body shapes and styles, and we can do alterations right here in the boutique. We can alter anything and everything because we know how to make it."

"We’re about buying less and buying better and we’re here to fit everyone."

Though she once found herself at a crossroads and uncertain of which path to choose, Dandeneau is confident that she ultimately found the best fit for her career.

"I really feel that, as a designer, I have a story. I have something from so many generations back. It is important to me to keep that story alive and to keep that spirit alive with Anne Mulaire."

frances.koncan@winnipegfreepress.com

Twitter: @franceskoncan

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