From Basketball to the Big-Time: The Fashion Journey of Dusty LeGrande
A designer finds a large market for his Indigenous-inspired streetwear
By Braedan Aubry | August 18, 2021
For Dusty LeGrande, clothing is not just about making a fashion statement, it’s a means of sharing his story. As a young Indigenous kid growing up in Calgary, the church forbade him to wear anything representative of his culture and heritage. Now, as the founder of fashion line Mobilize (ᐊᐧᐢᑲᐁᐧᐃᐧᐣ), Dusty is reclaiming his identity and proudly introducing the fashion world to Indigenous and specifically Waskewewin streetwear.
“I grew up with a church I call The Cult now. They controlled the type of clothes you wore. I couldn’t wear t-shirts for the first 12 years of my life. Our shirts had to be below the elbows and super modest… Everything that was knowledge-based, everything that was creative, was from the devil. We had to live in this certain way, and that’s what I was raised in.”
When LeGrande moved to Edmonton, he began a journey of discovery that led him into the world of community activism. Unbeknownst to him, that journey would eventually lead him into the fashion world where he would start a streetwear company with Cree flair.
Mobilize Streetwear was created to tell the story of Indigenous children who walk into streetwear shops and can’t find clothes that represent their culture, and the Indigenous children who can’t find models who look like them on fashion runways. Indigenous fashion has lingered in the background of the fashion industry, and LeGrande wants his children to grow up in a world that recognizes and embraces Indigenous style.
“I wanted to create something for those young people when they went into places like Zumiez to see themselves and just be like, okay, I can be proud to be an Indigenous person. It took me a long time to get to that in my own life just because of the church and different things. I had my own image issues where I didn’t love myself the same way, and it took a long time to get there.”
Stoked by the injustice LeGrande encountered throughout his time as a university student, basketball player, construction worker and youth outreach worker, Mobilize was a venture that was smouldering under the surface for years in the back of his mind.
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“I saw some of the ugliest things that I’ve seen in life in Edmonton in Indigenous youth groups,” says LeGrande. “With Mobilize, I was like, how do I create something that’s going to reach outside of all these things? Because working for nonprofits, you got to connect with these youth, but you didn’t get to create systemic change. It sucked being a part of that and not being able to do much about the system… It’s not nurturing youth in the right way, and it’s not allowing them to have their own voice.”
Following the arrival of his third child, LeGrande decided he was ready to tell his story and embark on a journey that would inspire Indigenous youth with similar experiences. Mobilize began amassing followers throughout North America due to his involvement with the Indigenous basketball community, and he dropped his first clothing line in the summer of 2018. After a succession of clothing lines sold out immediately, LeGrande was accepted into the Western Canada Fashion Week for his debut fashion show.
“They thought the brand was a lot bigger, and I’m like, I don’t know shit about fashion! The night before that show, I was literally on YouTube watching fashion shows like, What happens backstage at fashion shows? I don’t know!”
LeGrande has since crossed off more bucket list items following the WCFW show. Zumiez clothing pencilled a deal with Mobilize following a viral Tik Tok video that featured Mobilize designs, bringing Dusty’s vision full circle as he thinks back on his days as an Indigenous youth worker.
“When I was a youth worker, Zumiez was the store that I used to take these young kids to; that was their favourite store. We would go to West Ed, and they just wanted to go window shopping at Zumiez for a while… When I began [designing], that was my dream. I was like, ‘I want to be in Zumiez one day; that’s the goal.’”
Since Mobilize signed with Zumiez, brands such as Nike and Lululemon have discussed collaborations in the future, and he’s also been featured in Vogue, Complex and Fashion Magazine.
As for the future of Mobilize, LeGrande wants his brand to continue to tackle the lack of representation his culture has in the fashion industry, and he wants to continue to inspire the Indigenous youth he’s surrounded by.
“My goal is to create, to innovate and to evolve ideas, especially when it comes to indigenous fashion because it has this box, and I hate that box… I just want to be a streetwear brand.”