“When you’re poor and you’re broken and you’re indigenous and you’re homeless, you seem to be looked past a lot and people don’t see the potential.”
From a street kid to a business owner, the success story of the founder of PrettyEastVan is an inspiring tale.
PrettyEastVan is an Indigenous-owned fashion brand that sells screen-printed clothing, masks, and other designs in vivid colors and prints. The brand has an online store as well as two locations on Hastings Street and sells inside the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre, but there is more to the brand than its designs.
The founder and owner of the brand, who identifies herself solely by her brand name, PrettyEastVan, grew up on Main and Hastings streets, and went back and forth between Vancouver and Edmonton. Coming from a broken household and experiencing homelessness at around 12 years old, drawing and fashion became a safety net from an early age.
“When there was a lot of violence and addiction in my household, I would go into my room and draw,” the designer tells VIA over the phone. “It stayed with me as I developed through life.”
Even in times when she got in trouble on the streets, she would draw pieces of clothing and other fashion designs.
From face masks to fashion design
Having her daughter motivated PrettyEastVan to change her life. She left the streets and started school, pursuing a career in social work. It was when the COVID-19 pandemic hit that her passion for fashion was rekindled and she shifted her course.
The pandemic began as she was entering practicum. “Everybody was scrambling because of everything [the social service centres] were closed down and nobody was taking anybody,” she recalls. “I’m a really good sewer, [so I thought] I could sew face masks and we could give them out to the community.”
Her idea trickled down the grapevine and she was hired by the Aboriginal Front Door Society with whom she helped sew and sell about 600 face masks. Shortly after, a fashion designer noticed her talent and scooped her under their wing, introducing her to the business of fashion.
PrettyEastVan brings people together
The name PrettyEastVan itself comes from the designer’s love for East Vancouver, a part of the city that is dear to her heart, and her desire to help people. The brand name embodies her mission to bring people together with her designs, an inspiration that stems from her own lack of community and belonging when living as a street kid.
“When you’re poor and you’re broken and you’re indigenous and you’re homeless, you seem to be looked past a lot and people don’t see the potential,” she explains.
Her designs often show Indigenous nations, territories, and other ethnicities, illustrated together.
Giving back to East Vancouver
Another important value for the brand is giving back to the community.
PrettyEastVan actively participates in community “give backs” which involve donating thousands of shirts to various programs around the city.
However, the owner says that the real highlight of her work is “just being a part of the Eastside community.”
“I feel like I’m creating designs and finally being accepted for what I love to do and having people help me help people. Because if people didn’t buy my clothes, then I wouldn’t be able to help people the way I until,” she shares. “Seeing people be proud to wear the designs that I make is such an amazing feeling.”
“Don’t Ever Stop”
For Indigenous youth who can relate to her story, the fashion designer encourages them to keep trying and to live their passions.
“Don’t ever stop,” PrettyEastVan says. “There are people out there who are watching [who] we don’t even know are watching that are supporting [us] so just stick to it.”
The fashion designer shares that, although she still lives in subsidized housing, she’s able to live out her passion for fashion and for helping others through PrettyEastVan, and that’s what means most.