Informing the public, one pair of leggings at a time.
That’s what a Langford entrepreneur hopes to do with her line of “wearable, authentic Indigenous art” that will be featured on CBC’s Dragons’ Den in a couple of weeks.
Shar Wilson will be making her Dragons’ Den debut on Nov. 22 with her clothing company, Finawear.
Wilson lives in Langford now but is originally from Gitxsan Territory in northern B.C.
She used to work in finance with various First Nations organizations but everything changed for her in 2009 when she lost her 17-year-old son in a car crash.
“When I lost him my life ended pretty much,” Wilson said. “It didn’t make sense that my son wasn’t there.”
About three years later, Wilson said she saw frog flip flops that she was drawn to because she is from the frog tribe.
“I’d never seen anything with our crests on it,” Wilson said.
Wilson spent the last of her money buying the flip flops and posted them on Facebook to sell them. She said they sold right away and that led to her first business, Shop With Shar.
However, Wilson said she noticed many of the products she was selling were not made in Canada and that the art did not look the way she thought it should.
“That’s when the business part of my brain started kicking in and I said well why don’t I do this myself?” Wilson said.
She taught herself how to use various computer programs, purchased printers and cutting machines and taught herself how to make the products.
“I got all these designs, ordered my first set of clothing in February … flew to Toronto in April and pitched for the Dragons,” Wilson said. “It was very intimidating for me … I’m just a little reserve girl, I never left B.C.”
Wilson said she hopes people from all backgrounds can wear her products.
“The whole point is to inform people and change their minds and help them understand the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation,” Wilson said. “I’d love anybody to wear Finawear because they know who the artist is, where I’m from and if they wanted to, they can find the story on the art. That’s cultural appreciation.”
Wilson said she has been busy designing and honing her skill since she pitched to the dragons. She built a website to sell her products and is now planning to connect with other Indigenous artists to help promote their work as well. She said she hopes to feature them on her website so people can buy authentic work.
“I’m all for promoting other First Nations artists … spreading their work around … that’s what I want to do,” Wilson said. “There’s enough to go around … as Indigenous artists a lot of times we come from a place of lack so we don’t believe that …but there’s enough to boost each other up.”
So far, Wilson said she has sent her products to places in Canada and also internationally to cities like Chicago and Athens.
Wilson said her friends and family are very excited to see the episode. She will be holding a viewing party at the Legion in Langford so they can all watch it together.
The viewing party will be held on Thursday, Nov. 22, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at 761 Station Ave.