It’s all over social media, but it’s the kind of attention that makes a St. Louis native very happy. Christine Tournier, owner of SS River Designs and who creates art-à-porter beading and fashion items, was invited by her close friends Clint and Colleen Rudderhamoff to make a beaded medallion as a gift. This gift turned out to be for American actor Jason Momoa. Momoa was in Canada to film the final season of the fictional drama See. The series is set in a post-apocalyptic society in the distant future where humanity has lost the sense of sight and the ability to see is considered a myth. The birth of twins in a hill tribe who have the gift of sight sets the plot in motion. As part of the shoot, the CNIB issued a casting call for blind and visually impaired actors from across Canada. Colleen Rudderhamof encouraged her husband to give it a try, and Clint was among those chosen.
The three friends collaborated and came up with a design that would represent the native culture of Turtle Island while showcasing the Hawaiian culture that Momoa is from. The medallion took Tournier several days and although these were designs she had never beaded before, she was very pleased with the result, as was Momoa apparently. Tournier included with the medallion an explanation of what he understood and what each aspect represented. When the Rudderhamofs were able to introduce him to the actor, he read aloud the note Tournier included and offered to have his picture taken wearing the locket alongside Clint and Colleen. The medallion design included an eagle, feather, teepee, Hawaiian flower, and rainbow.
Tournier told CTV reporter John Flatters, “It’s gotten a lot of interest and so much positive feedback and congratulations. But it got a lot of interest in my brand on social media, so I appreciate that for sure. She started SS River Designs to showcase her French and Métis culture. SS River Design is named after the South Saskatchewan River where she grew up and resides today, along the shores of this important place in Métis history, and from which she draws inspiration for her designs. Tournier and the Métis community of St. Louis, Saskatchewan have a close connection to the river and the land. Tournier takes photos of the flowers and vegetation that dress the river valley and incorporates this imagery into his beadwork.
Christine states that she learned to bead alongside her mother after her mother received beads. Métis beadwork, she explained, is very symmetrical, with one side mirroring the other, and usually involves flowers, but as her skill level and confidence grew, she created her own stylized form. of beading. She was also inspired by native trees and created a line of fabrics based on the lines, patterns and colors of birch bark and a bead pattern that is more linear than circular.
After high school, Tournier took a fashion class in Alberta for a few years because she had always loved sewing. Over the years, sewing and beading continued as a hobby, but she began enrolling in other beading and fashion workshops and classes (clothing construction, draping, etc.) to continue. to develop their skills. In 2015, she applied for and received a grant from the Sask Arts Board, which enabled her to create a small collection of beaded clothing and followed with a local mini-exhibition. The exhibition was so well received that it encouraged her to stay the course and she ‘devoted’ herself to it much more. With the discovery of fabric art printing, she said it fit her interest in fashion and clothing making so well that she made the decision to start her own small business.
The art of beading takes many hours, but being able to transfer this art to a piece of fabric makes it more accessible to more people. Like a painter who makes prints of an original piece of art, printing their beadwork art on fabric puts the art in more people’s hands. It’s a “unique way to share aspects of the earth with other people through clothing.” She has two lines, an art-to-wear clothing line which naturally translates into one-of-a-kind beaded garments and then some made from the fabric with the design integrated. The ready-to-wear garments are made by a small Canadian manufacturer and have a beautifully vibrant print that “won’t fade even with repeated wear and washes.” The printed artwork reflects the vibrant, colorful and detailed beadwork of the original. The printed fabric uses water-based sublimation inks manufactured by a factory with the Zurich-based International Oeko-Tex Association’s Eco Passport certification for sustainable textile chemicals. Recognizing the need for environmental responsibility, SS River Designs only produces small quantities of its contemporary wearable pieces. The small quantities allow them to be careful not to overorder and to minimize any excess stock.
Her website, ssriverdesigns.com, says she started her business “to share my wearable art pieces that celebrate and aim to keep Michif culture alive… [and] make culture more widely accessible to all. In an episode of Art Talks on the Creative City Center website, Christine expressed a desire to have more real “cut and sew” here in Saskatchewan saying that with so many seamstresses, artisans and creatives very talented locals that the “brand’s vision is to have strong ties to the community. With this in mind, it has a brick and mortar store in Prince Albert and another studio at the River Road Center in St. Louis where she creates her designs and she and two local seamstresses sew her runway collections.
While being part of her friend’s adventure and creating the gift locket for Jason Momoa was a big thrill, Tournier is now focused on preparing for her next runway collection to premiere in Cannes, France in May. Organized by Regina-based International Indigenous Fashion Week Inc. to bring Canadian and American designers to Cannes, the festival includes influential Indigenous designers, models, artists, film buffs, hair and makeup artists, fashion bloggers and fashion marketing strategists. During the Cannes Film Festival, indigenous fashion will be presented to global fashion players, and Christine Tournier of Saint-Louis will be at their side.