Kanayu by Rebecca Baker-Grenier is an Indigenous fashion brand aimed at empowering Indigenous people and strengthening the art form. “Kana” means ‘to sew’ and "ayu" means 'tool' in the Kwak’wala language, spoken by Kwak’waka’wakw Nations on Vancouver Island, BC. Sewing and design are and always have been an integral part of Indigenous culture. Through fashion, Kanayu carries forward cultural skills and knowledge to ensure it is passed on to the next generation. Through designs, colors, and materials, Rebecca represents her communities, lineages, and ancestral connections.
For Indigenous people, it is important to represent who we are and to be proud of our identities in our everyday contemporary realities. Clothing is a way to express our identities, to reclaim our pride, and demonstrate our ancestral connections. This ongoing process of learning and connecting with ourselves is essential to defining our identities rooted in culture. It is a necessary process to heal from colonial trauma. Kanayu is a physical and outer representation of our inner selves and our identities as Indigenous people. To be proud of who we are is inspiring; to express who we are is empowering.
Kanayu Kollection creates clothing that is appropriate for non-Indigenous people to wear as well. With the increasing problem of cultural appropriation, it is important to support authentic Indigenous brands. By doing this, you create opportunities for Indigenous artists and can gain insight into Indigenous culture.
Rebecca is of Kwakiuł, Dzawada’enuwx, and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh ancestry. She is a multidisciplinary artist with a BA from the University of British Columbia with a Major in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program. Rebecca began fashion design in 2021 and is apprenticing under established Indigenous designer and artist, Himikalas Pam Baker. She completed the Indigenous Couture Residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity, 2022.
Rebecca debuted her first full collection at New York Fashion Week, September 2022, followed by Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week. She will present her collection at SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market fashion show, August 2023 and Vancouver Fashion Week, October 2023. She was the recipient of the 2021 YVR Emerging Artist Scholarship for her fashion design. Her dress, ‘Wazulis’ was on display at the YVR Vancouver Airport, 2022 and was part of an exhibit at the Museum of Vancouver, 2023. Her cedar and ermine cape is on display at the Bill Reid Gallery, 2023-24. Her work has also been featured in Vogue and Elle Canada.
There is an intimate ancestral connection with the art that Rebecca creates, representing her lineage as an Indigenous woman. Rebecca has been creating her personal and families’ sewn and beaded pow-wow regalia since the age of eleven. She is the regalia designer for the Dancers of Damelahamid’s productions (2016 – present) with her works dancing on national and international stages.