Meagan Van Capelle

Interview with Elwood Jimmy

As I think about the project, about the nearly twelve months that have enveloped this project, I reflect.

When I began to learn about the leggings I focused on communication: how the garment was a way of telling, a way of knowing and a way of learning. This became my focal point, and it pulled out the words that grace my title, Connection / Continuity / Communication / Creativity. I wanted to focus on the way fashion can speak of the person who wears the garments, how fashion can connect a person to themselves, or their families, or a group of like-minded people. I wanted to consider the way fashion has a continuity, the leggings themselves are not far off of today’s fashion and garments are often recycled styles from the past. Or how skills of making are passed through family or through community members, or even through not-so distant strangers online.

I also wanted a large focus to be on collaboration, for two reasons. The first, being that I am non-indigenous I did not want to have an “artistic license” to work with the leggings (connecting back to the issues around appropriation of cultures), I wanted to have a respectful conversation with the them. I wanted to learn about the larger conversation that extends far beyond my own project and knowledge about indigenous fashion. The second reason was that I felt collaboration is a large part of fashion, a large part of making, in my own experience, learning to sew and create has always come from listening and practicing and I wanted that to extend into my project.

I wanted a collaborative project, but I didn’t know enough when the project began about how important communication is to that process and practice. Many times, along the timeline of this project I doubted how to collaborate with the leggings, let alone other people.

This made me joke often enough that I was not a creative person and that is what constantly stopped me from continuing forward. However, what was truly blocking me was that I hadn’t connected with the leggings, I was focusing on appropriation and tip-toeing around to make sure that I didn’t disrespect the garments. In that caution I was missing what the leggings were communicating to me and that was just it: communication!

(Listening doesn’t always lead to internalization and in this case creative output).

The leggings taught me that clear communication leads to a respectful collaboration. That expressing expectations, asking questions and actively listening allows all those participating to feel at ease and open to sharing what they wish to share.

I had many amazing opportunities to listen and to ask questions throughout the first eight months of the project; we had many great critiques with many knowledgeable people who shared their thoughts. I also had a chance to speak with Elwood Jimmy this past July. He further illuminated my project and not just by the poor connection on Skype. He spoke to temporality in a way that I felt spoke to the UnCover / ReCover project and to the lesson on communication that the leggings had taught me. Elwood said,

“I’m always interested in this kind of braiding of different temporalities of the past, present and future. I think for me that is a pillar of what indigeneity is: is this different and radical relationship to temporality.”

I believe that in the past the leggings spoke to those coming to communicate with the wearer and I believe in the present, even from their drawer in the ROM’s archives they continued to speak. They spoke to me about collaboration and communication in a way I had not yet learned. I imagine that into the future, as they rest in another temporality online, they will continue to communicate.