Jul 6, 2018
By Audrey Arcand and James Oloo
Lydia Gardiner, a Métis woman from Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan, graduated with a Diploma in Fashion Design from the Academy of Fashion Design in Saskatoon this year. She worked with Audrey Arcand as her Employment Counselor.
Lydia learned about the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) Training and Employment through family and friends who had themselves been clients or students at GDI. At the time, Lydia was on Social Assistance and had not been in the labour market for about three years. She noted that, “After considering all my options for post-secondary education, I felt that as a Métis citizen, Gabriel Dumont Institute had the best services and support for my educational needs.”
That is when Lydia decided to visit the GDI Training and Employment where she met with Audrey Arcand in the summer of 2016. “Audrey helped me decide which programs would best suit my interest. She was direct and very knowledgeable, and though I was intimidated at first, I learned and understood that Audrey wanted me to succeed, and I am grateful for that.”
With funding from GDI Training and Employment, Lydia completed a First Nations Cultural Design & Contemporary Native Design Certificate program and a Diploma in Fashion Design. She started in September 2016 and went all the way through to April 2018 with no summer break.
Today, as a fashion designer, Lydia’s major responsibilities include listening to her clients and what they want, and bringing it to life through her designs. She describes fashion design as her “passion,” noting that “it gives me the opportunity to express my creativity and unique Métis designs.”
Of her training at the Academy of Fashion Design, Lydia stated that “I learned that it is a very competitive field. But perseverance is important, while self-sacrifice is temporary. Determination through discipline is key to success.”
Heather Brigidear, the Program Coordinator at the Academy of Fashion Design stated that, “As usual, Lydia is doing great. I have never had a student who has put herself out in the Fashion community and entered Fashion Shows and found herself clients. She has made garments for the presidents of both the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (Mr. Glen McCallum) and Manitoba Métis Federation (Mr. David Chartrand), as well as Andrea Menard. Lydia’s attendance is great and her attitude is fantastic. Wishing all of my students were as dedicated as Lydia.” Andrea Menard is a Métis woman, an award-winning Canadian singer, author, and actress.
Sylvia Moss, the Employment Services Manager at GDI Training and Employment said of Lydia, “I was amazed by her talent. Lydia came from being on social assistance for years to being the star of her program, self-taught in beading.”
Asked about the secrets to her success, Lydia said, “My success is my spirituality and my connection to the land. Water is important to me; it is the inspiration for the name NIPII Designs. I am also grateful for the support of my family, their encouragement and belief in me has unlocked the Artistic me.”
Last year, Lydia’s work was featured at the London Fashion Week, in London England. Her work was also exhibited at the April 8, 2018 fashion show at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon. Lydia has also been invited to Australia for a fashion show.