A student from Elsipogtog First Nation is putting a positive spin on a negative stereotype with his first line of clothing called Rez Famous.
“The idea of Rez Famous [is] bringing the word rez, a good side of it, because often people thought it was something bad to be from there,” said Talon Simon, a media and cultural studies student at the University of New Brunswick.
“But to give the community its well-deserved praise because it’s a place that I grew up in and it contains our culture.”
Simon said the name of his business was inspired by a nickname he received after he unexpectedly placed second in a traditional dance competition at a wedding in 2017.
“Everyone was like, ‘You’re rez famous, you’re rez famous!’ and so that really stuck with me, the name rez famous,” Simon said.
In the fall, Simon started his first year of university and the nickname stuck.
Simon originally pitched the idea to some of his artist friends and he said it made them laugh.
“As long as I can get people to laugh, I think I have something going,” he said, adding that they helped him design a logo.
Despite having taken only three business courses in high school, Simon officially launched his clothing line on June 21, 2018.
Since then, he’s been shipping his shirts, hats and sweaters, all branded with the Rez Famous logo, across Canada and even into the United States.
“I do want to expand reserve to reserve just because the brand is Rez Famous, of course. I have to be in every reserve … and so I am working on getting wholesale, working with the community businesses and just getting my products in the reserves.”
Simon sells most of his merchandise at powwows in the Atlantic region and he said he often has children running up to meet him.
“It’s really something that really inspires me … it just means a lot, just seeing them excited about something that’s from their community, something that reflects them,” he said.
Simon’s logo has changed since it first began. It was originally just a text logo but now it has changed to evoke logos found in popular culture, like the Adidas logo.
He said by doing that, it allows people who are often overlooked to be seen.
“It’s doing that [by] spinning off very popular designs to make them Indigenous,” he said.
“Indigenization is taking something from popular media, taking something from the bigger culture and bringing it back to us.”
Simon hasn’t been contacted by any larger retailers about the use of Rez Famous designs, but he said he’s not worried about it.
He’s hoping to participate in Indigenous Fashion Week in the future and said that although getting his education is a priority, the business is still growing.
“There are people excited and I’m still so new, so but it’s amazing just to see how far it’s been going,” he said.