By Chevi Rabbit, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Justin Jacob Louis was born and raised in Maskwacis, Alberta, and is a member of the Samson Cree Nation. He currently lives in Skowkale First Nation in Chilliwack, BC and he has created a streetwear brand that is politically, socially, and fashionably relevant.
Louis is founder of the streetwear brand SECTION 35, based in Vancouver. The company name has a powerful significance, inspired by SECTION 35 of the Constitution which protects and enshrines Indigenous and Treaty Rights in so-called Canada.
Louis comes from an Indigenous medicine family that uplifts others and their own family. He is also doing his part to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma within his family by creating a fashion label that is accessible to everyday Canadians; it is becoming one of Canada’s top Indigenous brands.
Louis shares, “I come from the Louis family, my parents are Melton and Jeanette Louis. My paternal grandparents are the late Jacob and Sarah Louis. My mother is from New Mexico originally and my maternal grandparents are the late Albert and Verne Gonzales.
He said, “I have ties to both sides of the Medicine Line. I was lucky enough to have been raised in Maskwacis and so much of that has shaped who I am today.”
When talking about the role of Cree men, he says, “I think being a nehiyaw or Cree man goes back to the teachings and values that we have from our culture and our Elders who have passed on those ways to us.”
Cree people are inclusive of all members of the tribe, says Louis. “I’m doing my best to honour those who have come before us and to take care of what they have left us.”
“Our ancestors survived and fought so hard for us to be here and we have a responsibility to uphold, rebuild, heal and reclaim all that we are as people,” he added.
“Our roles are to ensure that we are helping provide a better place for the generations that come after us, just as our ancestors did before us.”
When talking about fashion and what got him interested in creating a fashion line, he says, “I’ve always had an interest in clothes and fashion, but after I finished university and began working, I got really interested in graphic design and teaching myself how to design things.”
That led to experimentation by redrawing the old hockey logos that he grew up seeing in Maskwacis. “I started to make t-shirts and from there it really led to my interest in other items of clothing and building a brand,” he explained.
According to Louis, at the time there weren’t many indigenous streetwear brands that he knew of, and there was something that told him to keep designing and creating and that he should take a chance on building a brand.
That perseverance changed his life, and as he says,” I have grown as a designer and so have my ambitions to create new things. We’ve been very lucky that people like what we do, and it has allowed me to continue to create and grow as a creative, so for that, I am very blessed.”
The passion to create has grown with time, he adds.
Louis offers advice to people who have an entrepreneurial spirit. He said it’s tough and comes with ups and downs, but you must be willing to accept those challenges.
“I think it’s important to always keep an open mind and continue to educate yourself and learn new skills,” he notes. “You also need to be able to adapt to all kinds of things.”
Louis believes that setting goals is important and that establishing a business plan can create a solid foundation for a business. Some of these things he has had to learn the hard way, he adds, “but I’ve used them as lessons.”
“The grind doesn’t ever stop, but I can’t think of anything better than being your own boss and that’s what has kept me motivated…It’s also important to take time for self-care when the grind becomes overwhelming. Burnout is a real thing and if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be at your best to do the things you need to do.”
“I also have some side projects that I hope to launch one day, but for now I am just taking things one day at a time and being thankful for the things that I have and the things I get to do,” concludes Louis.
“The pandemic has really allowed me the time to step back and appreciate what we have, and I am trying to stay mindful of those things and not take myself so seriously.”
For more information visit www.sectionthirtyfive.com, IG: @ sectionthirtyfive and FB: @ SECTION 35.