PHOTOS: Local Métis designer partners with U.S. fashion brand

By Thia James
July 29, 2013 - 6:19am

Candace Halcro hasn’t been seeking out the attention, but success and a potentially lucrative partnership with U.S. fashion label Paul Frank Industries has found the local designer.

The Prince Albert artist divides her time between working in her home studio designing, creating and selling ‘tribal’ beaded sunglasses for her company Brown Beaded and raising her two children, Aubri, 8, and Jonah, 5. Her products are sold online through her Etsy shop and the Beyond Buckskin Boutique.

But as of Aug. 16, she will be creating a special line of sunglasses – the designs of which are a well-guarded secret – for California-based Paul Frank Industries. The brand is known best for its Julius the Monkey logo on accessories and clothing.

Paul Frank Industries came under fire late last year for holding a ‘Dream Catchin’’ party that was rife with stereotypical representations of aboriginal people.

Out of the controversy came some something else. Four aboriginal designers – Halcro being the only Canadian one – were selected to collaborate with Paul Frank Industries to create traditional-themed products.

“Jessica [Metcalfe] and her partner from Beyond Buckskin and their blog, they proceeded with all of that, and I don’t know, I guess Paul Frank they had an idea like ‘let’s make this right.’ They contacted Jessica and her partner to see if she had any idea of any aboriginal artists that would be interested, they wanted to see their work, I guess. And so she showed some of the work from Beyond Buckskin, and I guess they just jumped at it and said like ‘we want this girl that makes these sunglasses,” Halcro said.

When Metcalfe contacted her the following day to let her know that she had been selected to collaborate with Paul Frank Industries, Halcro said yes.

All four artists will have one year to use the Paul Frank Industries name.

“I don’t go looking for it. It’s just happening,” she said of the attention she’s been garnering for her work.

Halcro’s work has been featured in well-known fashion magazines; the first time her work was showcased in Europe. A woman who owned a boutique in France bought some pairs of sunglasses beaded by Halcro to sell.

“She was showing them off to her friends and her best friend just so happened to be the fashion editor of Elle magazine in Europe.”

Halcro said that “was it,” awareness of her work migrated from France to Italy and then “trickled” to the U.S.

“I think a lot has to do with once I started with Beyond Buckskin, that’s kind of how I think my name got out there more in the States.”

Her sunglasses have also been featured in People magazine.

And the added attention because her work was featured in People and because of the Paul Frank partnership has meant increased business, which meant that she had to enlist her sister’s help for the beading.

The partnership with Paul Frank Industries won’t only shed light on the artists collaborating with the brand, she said, but First Nations artists and designers as a whole.

“There’s so many out there, so, so many. And like, the four of us, we’re nothing compared to how many are out there. So, I’m really just hoping it sheds a positive light on all the artists. I think it’s just amazing. And our culture.”

Honing the craft

It was Halcro’s own interest in her own culture that in part led her to learn her trade. Her now ex-husband was a “treaty” First Nations man, and she herself is Métis.

Unlike her ex-husband’s family, her household didn’t take part in a lot of traditional activities. But he wanted to teach their children those traditions.

Before she began to bead, she was unsure about what she wanted to do. Halcro was a stay-at-home mother, and she filled the time with art, designing and creating.

While she’s always been a crafter, she started beading about two years ago. “Just kind of exploring that side of my heritage and culture, and I’d never really done it before. So, I grabbed a needle, some beads, and some leather and started off making moccasins.”

But Halcro said she thought that wasn’t trendy at the time, and then grabbed a pair of sneakers and beaded those. Then, she beaded Ugg boots. She soon progressed to beading sunglasses.

“I did the glasses, and that’s just what hit,” she said. Now, Halcro doesn’t see herself doing any other job.

Developing her own technique took about a year, and now she can create up to five or six pairs of beaded sunglasses in a day. She’s also a self-taught beader.

“I had some things that were beaded, like barrettes and earrings, and I actually took them apart to see how they were made. And then I just kind of like re-made them.” Halcro also bought a number of books and watched instructional videos online.

She also sets a time each day to set her work aside. “As soon as I wake up it’s coffee, it’s emails, and then it’s straight to work with beading. And then I try to divide my time between that and the kids. Usually around seven or eight o’clock, I’ll stop.”

As an artist, she can set her own hours, which allows her to spend extra time with her children. “If I want to take the day off, I’m going to take the day off. If my kids want to hang out, ‘ok, let’s go.’ Because I don’t have a boss -- I am the boss.”

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On Twitter: @thiajames

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