Heather Bouchier

Putting the Pieces Together: Heather Bouchier Fashions a Career and a Life For Her Family

Growing up, her family didn’t have a lot of money and so she wore thrifted clothing, something that was thankfully trendy during the 90s grunge. Heather Bouchier danced powwow as a kid and was creative in how she dressed due to her circumstances. This creativity would grow into a career and a way she found she could put the pieces together and fashion a life for her family. 

Heather Bouchier has lived in Edmonton for 18 years and is originally from Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation, between Saskatoon and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. For a long time, she lived in Saskatoon before moving away to go to school and start her career as a fashion designer, seamstress and creative director for a fashion collective.

When she was a single mom at the age of nineteen, she had recently graduated and was looking for something to do, either hair or fashion. She opted to go to fashion school in Saskatoon, earning a certificate in sewing and design and a diploma in fashion design. The program was intense, with pattern drafting, sketching and learning how to make things fit and drape on mannequins, about fabrics and textiles. She started barely able to sew and the experience was fun but challenging. 

“I love doing this. Even with drafting and sewing and everything, everything feels like a puzzle and then that sense of accomplishment when you complete that puzzle. It's a good feeling,” she beams. She loves starting with an idea in her mind that she can put to fabric and see it come to fruition, explaining, “Sometimes it even comes out better than you thought and you're just like, “Oh my god, I just can't believe I just did that.” Before she found work designing, she worked in tailor shops, dry cleaners, and fabric stores. It took time to build the confidence and skills to start her own business. 

At first, she struggled with imposter syndrome but seeing her work on the runway and hearing people clapping for her and telling her how her work made them feel lifts the weight of her worries off her shoulders. “You spent all of this time putting in all of this work and doing all of these things, hoping in your mind that somebody's gonna see what you see or see the vision… It's a really amazing feeling. It's really rewarding,” she confides. Putting herself out there, Bouchier learned to roll with things and just do it, despite doubts and struggles with self-confidence.

Last year, she hosted a fashion show in her community with other designers. Bringing her talents back, she felt the excitement of youth inspired by her achievements after leaving home. “You don't realize that you can touch people's lives… it kind of blew my mind a little for a while,” she muses. 

Illustration by Shaikara David

Her advice for youth leaving their community is to find a support system in their new location. In Edmonton, she only had one relative and had to leave her son behind for four months. She joined an Indigenous student group where she found a community and the man who would become her husband. Through social services, she furnished her apartment and the Food Bank helped her eat. She recommends university therapy services and Indigenous student support.  Fifteen years later, she and her husband have four kids. 

Being a single mom was a major challenge in her education and career. She also struggled with anxiety and depression starting from when she was a teen. Leaving her community with little support, she pushed herself to succeed for her son. “I have to get through this thing. I'm here for this reason. I've survived this long and I'm still here. Let's get through this,” she would tell herself. 

If she could give a message to her younger self, it would be to listen to the adults and people looking out for her and to try to hear what they have to say. Suffering from depression, she couldn’t hear the wisdom she was offered. To maintain her mental health now, Bouchier spends time with her kids, does beadwork, watches tv, learns new things and does nice things for herself like wearing makeup or going for a walk. Doing breathwork to recenter herself can be a big help during busy, distracting times. 

One of the things that inspired her in a recent collaboration collection with Indi City was a desire to push back against sentiments like “this is the way it’s always been” and knowing things can change, and that not everything is black and white. Growing up with trauma and existing within systems, she’s familiar with grey spaces and the frustration that can exist without flexibility. She’s also been inspired by things she sees when she’s out and about, knowing every day can hold inspiration. 

She’s learned a lot through her challenges and she’s eager to share her lessons. “Things really do get better… there's always a lesson to be learned… that you can take from everything. If it wasn't meant for you, you're meant for something else and then something better will come along. The more lessons that you take from everything that you go through in your life, it gives you that strength that you need to carry on,” Bouchier says, imparting words of encouragement for Indigenous youth. 

After growing up dancing powwow and thrifting clothes, she built the creativity she needed to fashion a career and a life for her family. Heather Bouchier learned to put the pieces together like a puzzle in fashion school and now she lives in love and joy with the way it’s all turned out. Inspired by the future, she’s stitching together something better and savouring the path to the runway. 

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
    ,
    ,
  • Province/Territory
    Alberta
  • Date
    February 21, 2024
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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