The Closet Feminist’s second instalment of Feminist Designers interviews Devon Fiddler, Chief Changemaker and Designer for SheNative Goods Inc. SheNative is based out of Saskatoon, and is a socially driven, handbag and accessories brand that aims to empower the Indigenous women.
What inspired you to start your line SheNative?
I started SheNative out of a childhood dream of becoming a designer, my own life experiences as an Indigenous women, and my first career experiences. When I started SheNative, I had no fashion design background, little sewing experience, and went for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics (Aboriginal Public Administration).
After completing my degree, I worked as a Business Development Coordinator, working with clients on reserve who wanted to start a business. This sparked my passion of entrepreneurship, and brought my childhood dream swirling back into my head. I saw other entrepreneurs starting companies with a mission to have a positive social impact, and I decided that I wanted to start a fashion business that gives back.
I grew up out of a lot of negative experiences that many Indigenous women in Canada face, including seeing and experiencing family violence, being taken advantage of, domestic violence and more. I still see many of my friends and family struggle with what they went through; these experiences are so common among Indigenous women.
Through SheNative, I want to bring light into lives by showing the power of positivity, and showing other women that you can find it in yourself to make changes and overcome any negative experience you’ve had. I try to show that myself by practice, living healthy, and following my dream. I try to bring positive inspiration into the lives of others through the initiatives that we create in SheNative (Her 4 Directions Fashion Incubator), inspirational words, and showcasing what other Indigenous women are doing.
SheNative focuses a lot on affirmations, positive thinking, social media campaigns beyond marketing, etc. Are there plans to evolve SheNative into a broader lifestyle brand?
Yes, I think that’s where we are heading with our brand. We are still figuring out what’s working and what’s not working. We are very new, so it takes time to build.
I started out with the idea that I would create very specific products. Initially, I wanted to start a clothing line that was more geared towards professional working women. After consulting with a product development company in Toronto, we found that it didn’t matter what we created: SheNative was going to be a company that empowered Indigenous women.
Initially, SheNative started by designing a handbag collection instead of a clothing line. Working with companies that hold ethical production standards, along with quality workmanship is really important to me.
Since starting, SheNative has really evolved as a brand, from quality handbags to graphic t-shirts. Our line goes from a higher-end to a fairly low price point. We are looking to build more products in the medium price point range. I think becoming a broader lifestyle brand would make the most sense for us moving forward.
What have you learned working on SheNative that you couldn’t have learned anywhere else?
The fashion portion especially has been a big learning curve for me, and I am still learning a lot! I still leave the sewing to those who are best at it. I found the best way to learn is by just jumping in, doing, and being hands-on instead of taking technical courses in design.
For the business-side of things, I’ve entered as many entrepreneurship courses and classes, both online and in classrooms that I can find. I think you have to learn from mistakes along the way and pivot when things are not working.
What is a typical day for you as the head designer and founder of SheNative?
I am currently trying to create a typical day for me. At first it was chaotic; we had a lot of interviews and random media requests during our launch. Then, I started getting speaking requests, especially in the Indigenous community, as well as invitations to many different events like trade shows. At this time, I would often forget to eat, and stay up working on business stuff at all hours of the night.
Now, I’m establishing a bit of a routine. I wake up in the morning, have my breakfast, take my dog out for a walk, check emails, and then head out to our shared studio space. At the studio, I take on whatever tasks come our way from there including operational, sales, design, etc, which takes me to the end of the day; only sometimes do I take evening meetings. I also sit on three committees, so that takes of some of my free time. I now go to sleep at a decent hour, and always make time for myself.
Your brand seems very dynamic with regards to how you reach your customer base—trade shows, craft fairs, farmers markets, pop up shops, conferences, and fashion week in addition to an online shop. How has this versatility affected/impacted SheNative?
We have been exploring what works and doesn’t work [in an attempt to find] our target market. Through this, we have found our target market is different than we thought it would be; you never know until you jump in and try. I have to admit, trying too much at once has had a negative impact on the business. After finding out something doesn’t work, you need to be strong at saying ‘no’, and moving forward with what actually works.
SheNative recently completed a highly successful crowdfunding campaign, congratulations to the SheNative team! Be sure to follow SheNative and watch this exciting Canadian brand grow!
Shop SheNative here
SheNative on Facebook