Haawa to The Nation: Cree News for posting this article on Dorothy Grant Oct 6 2015
For over 30 years, Dorothy Grant has created extraordinary fashion designs that meld Haida art with contemporary trends. Her new creations include a light-blue, silk evening gown with eagle prints and a smart, black suit with a wolf design embroidered on the lapels.
Grant said that many of buyers over the years have told her that her clothes give them a sense of pride when they wear them. I want them to feel empowered when they put on the clothing. It is about more than looking good. It is about feeling like you can do anything, she stated.
Grant currently has three labels that run the gamut from everyday wear to haute couture. She counts many high-profile celebrities, politicians and First Nations as customers. Her work is also on display in museums across the country, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau.
Grant’s intricate designs and attention to detail receive a steady stream of media attention. Opening her first store in 1993, she is now taken her business exclusively online, a successful move that helped her reach international markets.
With the Internet, people just have to Google Haida or Haida art and they can find my webpage.
She was an early adopter with the Internet, having set up her first page in 1996. It was not profitable then. But over time, as the technology progressed and more people became comfortable shopping online, it has become her path to success. I think I will teach a class on digital entrepreneurship one day, Grant quipped. It is really streamlined my business.
However, having mentors over the years has been key. People like Albert Rock, who runs a software business, and Lynn Brown, who runs a marketing company based out of Chicago, have been important sounding boards and sources of guidance.
A lot of being an entrepreneur is about listening, Grant acknowledged. Having a great idea is one thing. Taking it to fruition is another. It takes a million steps to do that. You have to pay attention to what people say to do. But you have to pay attention to what they say not to do. When pressed, she points to two fundamental values an entrepreneur needs to possess persistence and belief in your work.
Grant said it is important for communities to support their young artists, to give them the help they need at the start of their careers, a crucial stage for new businesses.
Lately, she’s gotten behind a young man named Dyami Thomas, an Aboriginal model-actor who modelled in one of Grant’s shows. After seeing a post Thomas put on Facebook to raise money to attend a modelling competition in New York City, Grant made a significant contribution. Thomas made it to New York, where he finished fourth in the competition. I did this because people supported me when I started, by buying my product, Grant explained. It was time for me to support someone else.