One Step at a Time, With Beautiful Shoes: Artist Alicia Stephens Puts Her Best Foot Forward
Much of fashion is putting your best foot forward and when it comes to the work of Alicia Stephens, that foot is wearing modern footwear with beautiful, traditional designs that stand out in a crowd, on the runway and on the internet. She is a First Nations artist and founder of a company called Alicia Design where she has been creating First Nations art and fashion accessories for the past eight years.
Vancouver has been home for the past 20 years after growing up in Victoria. Moving from a small city to a big city, she found it difficult to survive at times. Stephens is from the Nuu-chah-nulth and Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw nations and for her whole life, she has been an artist. As a child, she enjoyed making First Nations art, sketching and drawing traditional designs. In elementary school, she took First Nations art and she’s been around art her whole life. Her uncles were artists and she’s always been surrounded by First Nations carvers and artists.
In 2012, she found herself out of work and she started drawing all day with nothing else to do. She even drew on her shoes and posted them on Facebook, receiving a tremendous response. She started taking orders and her business grew and grew until she found herself in New York Fashion Week.
She’s learned how to create balance for herself so she still has a home life and not just constant work, making time for exercise, for her kids, housework and everything else she needs to do. Her daughter is looking at moving back to their home community after college to do community work. At the beginning of her teenage years, her daughter struggled but she’s thriving now. Stephens herself has been sober for 8 years now and wanted to raise them in a good home.
Her daughter helps her with the shipping and admin in her business but she hasn’t brought in other artists because it’s very detailed work. Stephens hand paints on purses, boots, shoes, high heels, earrings, and has a printing company that puts her art on clothes. She uses bright and modern colour combinations and even neons in her vibrant designs.
Her advice for anybody who wants to get a start in fashion design or art is “Just follow your gut. Follow your passion. Stay dedicated. Don't get discouraged. I wanted to quit probably 20 times. I had a baby. Lots of life happened…. But I just kept pushing and pushing. Just keep going."
To youth considering leaving their hometowns she says, “Pursue it, if you want it.” She also points out that the work she does is online and can be done from anywhere, so you don’t necessarily have to move to a big city to find opportunities. Your work can find its way to the big city and you don’t always have to go with it.
Selling her work online to an audience of 27,000 followers has been exciting, but not everyone is kind. Sometimes negativity can be discouraging and she thinks about getting a nine to five job and getting out of business. Somehow, she finds the strength to keep going and the strength to hold her tongue in sometimes frustrating situations.
With much of fashion focused on putting your best foot forward, Alicia Stephens makes sure more feet are wearing modern footwear with beautiful, traditional designs that stand out in a crowd, on the runway and on the internet. As a First Nations artist and founder of Alicia Design, she’s made a life and a living from her creations and she’s shown her own daughter that it can be done, one step at a time, in beautiful shoes.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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