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Awasis Boutique makes Indigenous culture accessible to all

Representation the driving force behind USask alumna’s business

Growing up, Christine Marie (BEd’10) never saw Indigenous people on billboards.

“I remember walking through Midtown Mall and seeing different billboards and thinking ‘I don't ever see Indigenous people on these. Why? We are all here?’” she said. “Especially in Canada, we should be able to see ourselves (represented) out and about."

Today, she’s determined to change that for the next generation of Indigenous youth with her company, Awasis Boutique. The clothing line focuses on pieces for babies, children and adults and features handcrafted designs that celebrate Indigenous identity and culture.

“To be able to create this space is saying representation matters and you can be out and about and see your (culture) and that’s the norm,” she said.

Christine Marie is a graduate of USask’s SUNTEP program. She was one of the first in her family to pursue post-secondary education and says it was her time at USask that really opened her eyes to her Indigenous roots and the importance of representation.

“It was the first time that I truly learned about my culture. I felt proud to be Indigenous and it gave me that safe space,” she recalls. “It was an empowering feeling.”

The idea and inspiration for Awasis Boutique bloomed while Christine Marie took some time away from teaching to be a stay-at-home mom. She never dreamt of opening her own business, but she felt the need to fill a gap in the baby clothing market.

“There was not a lot of Indigenous pieces for little ones. I would go to the fabric store looking for Indigenous prints and there wouldn’t have anything ... I thought ‘there’s got to be a way to change that.’”

She got to work creating her own Indigenous baby clothing line in 2018 and hasn’t looked back. Her online store features beautifully crafted bibs, onesies, blankets, toddler clothing and more. It has since expanded to include adult clothing as well.

Along with overseeing the design, manufacturing and sales of her products, Christine Marie has taught herself social media and marketing along the way. She has also partnered with local retailers to promote and sell her pieces.

“I’ve always been a go-getter type of person. I’m going to learn and try,” she said.

Most recently, Christine Marie put a call out to her social media followers to wear orange on May 31st in remembrance of the 215 children found in an unmarked burial site at the former Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia—a painful reminder of the historic injustices perpetrated against Indigenous peoples across Canada.

She sold 600 orders of her orange shirt, “Every Child Matters,” in just 45 minutes. Christine Marie promptly donated $9,375 of the proceeds to Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

“I need to give back and support these families who are grieving and hurting,” she said, noting she is happy people from all diversities and backgrounds have been purchasing and wearing her orange shirt designs.

Christine Marie plans to expand her reach and audience through her e-commerce store and further partnerships with local businesses. Being a positive role model in her community is a constant driver for her to continue to pursue her dreams.

“If I inspire others, if other little ones look up and say, ‘she looks like me!’ then that’s great and that’s my hope.”

 

Do you want to learn more about Christine Marie? Make sure to tune into our social media channels June 21, National Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Christine will be taking over the USask Alumni Instagram account and give us an inside look at her daily life as a mom and entrepreneur.

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