Canadian Original: Metis siblings reach back to their roots to make a fashion footprint
Published Wednesday, July 4, 2012 4:35PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 12, 2012 6:46AM EDT
EDITOR'S NOTE: In this Canadian Originals segment, reporter Jill Macyshon features the brother and sister team behind Manitobah Mukluks -- a company whose shoes and boots have become wildly popular and are adorning the feet of people worldwide.
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WINNIPEG -- I love shoes. Love them!
The black pumps, the tan pumps, the brown loafers, that pair of tall leather boots I bought last fall, I think the colour was called tobacco.
Shoes make me happy. So imagine my delight when I was given the go-ahead to profile a local company that makes some of the most beautiful footwear I’ve ever seen. Manitobah Mukluks. The shoes and boots made by this Canadian company have donned the feet of Hollywood celebrities like Jessica Biel and Megan Fox. Kate Moss is a fan too.
The mukluks and moccasins are made of cowhide leather and suede, rabbit and coyote fur. In the eyes of many in the world today, a social taboo, but company owner Sean McCormick makes no apologies. He’s a big believer in sustainability.
“We make footwear that should last years. This is not throw away stuff. I think one of the biggest drivers of sustainability is making something that’s not meant to be thrown away a month later,” he said.
The idea for Manitobah Mukluks was born from a place that goes beyond social norms, the footwear is part of McCormick’s culture. A Metis man. His father is Caucasian. His mother’s family is Cree.
Sean and his partner in the company, his sister Heather, spent much of their childhood in Manitoba’s north. They learned how to preserve furs and tan leather. They grew up wearing moccasins and mukluks.
“There’s pride and there’s also opportunity and putting those two things together is really what’s driven me over the years to work at building this brand,” McCormick said.
A brand that’s now sold internationally, in Australia, Russia, Japan, the United States and all across Europe.
And the success of this company translates into success for their community and First Nations people.
With every pair of Mukluks sold, money goes back to a Winnipeg-based school, the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development. It’s where Sean McCormick himself graduated from business. He goes back each year to hand out a bursary from his company, to help another First Nations student realize their dream.
The McCormicks have acknowledged while Manitobah Mukluks is their own, the idea, the original product, is their people’s. The elders and the artisans who still live on Canada’s First Nations, the people who still create authentic mukluks.
To keep the art alive, the McCormicks also sell footwear that is not their own. Authentic handmade Mukluks, some sell for as much as $1,200, and all the money goes back to First Nations artists who created them.
“It’s a business, but we are also sharing our culture and our heritage with the world,” said Heather McCormick.
For this shoe lover, the story shows the beauty of footwear isn’t only the supple leather, the colour, the fit … maybe it goes beyond that… to the sole.