I design. I write. I create. I sew. I cut. I draw.
My name is Tlaa’kwaa, I am a Nuuchaanulth First Nations woman with Diitiidaht, Kyuquot, and Coast Salish roots. My father, Art Thompson is from the Ditidaht Tribe and my mother Cathy Leo is from the Kyuquot Tribe. I am an artist – a fashion designer, a writer and a graphic designer. I take my culture and intertwine it within my design.
My knowledge within the film industry and specifically in costume, allows me to assess the project and provide an honest representation of our Indigenous peoples. I have had the honour of working on such productions as 1491: The Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbus (imdb website) and CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries, Holiday Special (imdb website).
1491 was quite the challenge. We filmed the following different Indigenous cultures: Amazon, Anishnaabe, Artic/Inuit, Argentina, Aztec/Mayan/Yucatan, Blackfoot, Brazil, Cahokia, Chile, Clovis, Cree, Incan, Iroquois, Kwaguilth, Nuuchahnulth, Peru, & Taos Pueblo.
It was quite the costume challenge! I spent 6 months researching and preparing for this production. I knew the level of responsibility I had with both the Indigenous culture and the film production. I spent countless hours going over archaeological dig images, museum archives and hundreds of photos in collections online and I hit the books at the library.
I rented pieces from Western Costume Co., Universal Studios Costume Department, Costumes Period and ESpace. I created several unique wardrobe and adornment pieces throughout the show.
Each scene, each culture, every location taught me something new. I was a student throughout and had many teachers, show me the way, each colour, its purpose, every fold and happenings. Culture is very visual, and integral. In Peru, you can look at a man, and know where he is from and if he is married or single, just by his hat and the pattern of adornment. In Nuuchahnulth territory, if a woman has her hair cut short, he is in mourning and has just lost someone very close to her to the Spirit World. There are reasons for visual representation in indigenous culture; the short hair, the handkerchiefs, the markings. Overall respect is given. Culture & Love is universal.