Haida couture makes a strong showing at Academy Awards

Dorothy Grant is still buzzing after her Haida-style tuxedo landed a supporting role at the Oscars.

 

Dorothy Grant is still buzzing after her Haida-style tuxedo landed a supporting role at the Oscars.

When Duane Howard, the Nuu-chah-nulth actor who plays ‘Elk Dog’ in the The Revenant, needed an outfit for the Feb. 28 awards in Hollywood, he chose Grant — a celebrated fashion designer whose Haida couture started turning heads nearly 30 years ago.

“He’s such a strong person,” said Grant, speaking to the Observer from a hotel in Mexico.

“He can really command a space, which is what he did on the red carpet,” she added.

“I was so proud of him, and I also felt like maybe I had a part in it, in making him feel that great.”

Tailored in her Vancouver studio just a week before Oscar night, the shawl-collar tuxedo featured Haida eagle and raven designs on the lapels.

Howard also wore one of Grant’s signature scarves tucked in his breast pocket and, rather than a tie, a silver pendant carved by Haida artist Alvin Adkins on his shirt collar.

Grant said she had no trouble designing the outfit with a week to go.

“Oh, anything’s possible,” she said. “We’ve turned over high-end couture garments in 24 hours.”

Grant and Howard actually spoke about the Oscars more than a month before, but it wasn’t until Howard made a call to The Revenant star Leonardo DiCaprio that it became clear he would be going.

DiCaprio made headlines in January when he dedicated a Golden Globe award to indigenous peoples.

Shot in several Alberta and B.C. locations, the film includes hundreds of First Nations actors. Besides winning Best Actor, Best Director and Best Cinematography at the Oscars, the film won DiCaprio an acting award at the Golden Globes.

“I want to share this award with all the First Nations people represented in this film, and all the indigenous communities around the world,” said DiCaprio.

“It is time we recognize your history and that we protect your indigenous lands from corporate interests and people out there to exploit them.”

Howard reminded DiCaprio of his call to recognize indigenous peoples when, a week before the Oscars, none of the First Nations actors from the film had tickets to go.

“He held them to their word,” said Grant, noting that director Alejandro González Iñárritu agreed with Howard made sure that Arthur Redcloud and Forrest Goodluck, indigenous actors from the U.S., would also be there.

“They were invited too, so kudos,” said Grant.

“We had good representation of native people.”