Indigenous creator highlight: Auntiez Apparel by Justina Black

“I always wanted to see my culture and my people being represented in the clothing, I wear it especially in a modern way," says Justina Black.

Justina Black from Yellowknives Dene First Nation. (Submitted by Justina Black)

Auntiez Apparel, run by Justina Black, 26, from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation started when she saw a friend of hers make t-shirts with designs. 

‘Denendeh’ crewneck designed by Justina Black. (Submitted by Justina Black)

“And from there, I started drawing my own designs that I was inspired from the land,  and I put together my first design which was the Denendeh design,” says Black. 

Starting off with iron-on transfers, she gifted the first creations to family and friends. Now, she goes through an online company.

“I had people kind of stop me around Yellowknife asking, ‘Hey, where’d you get that?’ And I was like, ‘I actually made this.’ And it just kind of kept growing from there.”

Black has always been an artistic person and creates the designs by hand. She wants to express herself and reflect her community.

“I always wanted to see my culture and my people being represented in the clothing, I wear it especially in a modern way.”

Black started with the ‘Denendeh’ crewneck sweaters, then the hats with the ‘Yellowknife’ design, canvas totes with ‘Mahsi Cho’, and a ‘Stay Deadly’ design.

“By wearing the sweater, you can have conversations with people that you are a part of your community about land and about the people. And that’s why I created these designs.”

Starting as just a hobby, Black hopes to expand to an in-person store in the future.

‘Mahsi Cho’ tote designed by Justina Black. (Submitted by Justina Black)

“I’ve had conversations with my sister about one day maybe opening a shop…have another Indigenous apparel store here in Yellowknife because there needs to be more representation for our people in the economy.”

On her brand name, Black says it came from the community. When members of the community would ask who made that shirt, they would refer to Black as auntie. 

“Honoring the matriarch that I come from, and I have a lot of Aunties in my life that I look up to,” she says. “I thought having Auntiez Apparel was something that would be kind of connecting me to that community.”

On her next design, Black will be creating a diamond that represents Yellowknife being the diamond capital of Canada. Black seeks input from her community, asking ‘what would you like to see this on?’ by gaining input, she hopes to be as accessible to everyone. 

“Because I’m not just creating it for myself. I’m creating it for everyone.”

To view, you can visit her Instagram or her online store.