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Some of Oro's collections.

As a young entrepreneur, Helen Oro went from running a nail shop in Chitek Lake, Saskatchewan, to taking part in one of the most famous and awaited fashion runways; London Fashion Week.

“It has always been on my bucket list ever since I got into fashion,” said Oro. “Being able to check those off my bucket list is pretty amazing. It’s surreal.”

Oro is a clothing and accessory designer and has her own fashion line, Helen Oro Designs Inc. She is mostly known for her beaded accessories. The fashion designer takes traditional First Nation beading and creates designs with a modern twist. Oro designs beaded masks, headphones, high heels, earings, necklaces and glasses.

“You can see the trend of it being traditional beading but in a modern sense and that is what I really enjoy,” said regular customer Katryna Smith, who owns a pair of prescription glasses beaded by Oro.

While beading may seem to be just a hobby, for Oro it is much more than that. Oro started beading five years ago. She says that beading is a very important part of the First Nation culture.

“Beading is like a form of prayer for us. A lot of the designs, patterns and what we use all have meaning,” said Oro. “Beading mainly teaches you patience.” Oro added, explaining that making each piece is very time consuming.

Oro is currently working by herself and personally makes each piece. “I guess what makes my pieces unique is that I make it and each of them tells a piece of my story and while making each piece, it has taught something special,” she said.

Oro is frequently asked if you have to be First Nations to wear beadwork. Her answer is that the ethnicity of the person wearing beadwork does not matter. “It is important for First Nation designers to go out there and show their work. We are sharing our culture through our work,” Oro said.

“The more people that know about it, the misappropriation that goes on in the fashion world will hopefully die down.”

Beading is a 24hour job for Oro, as she is currently the only person that beads for her line. To meet demand, she spends nights designing, creating and shiping to customers.

Oro is also a mother of two children. While managing business and family at the same time is difficult, it's a matter of priorities for the fashion designer. “First things first, I am a mom. I always put that first before anything,” said Oro. “I don’t really know what is sleep sometimes but when you have no choice you have no choice. You got to do what you can."

For Oro, making it this far hasn't been easy, especially as a First Nation woman. “Being an Indigenous woman, people don’t take you seriously. I find that I have to always be done-up and if I look even slightly sloppy then I get stereotyped a lot more,” said Oro.

“I have learned to take in criticisms and grow from it. I am going to get criticized and stereotyped, that’s all going to happen to me. But I know what I do and I know what I am capable of. As long as I do what I love and create opportunities for others then that helps.”

Oro will be showcasing her beaded accessories and her statement pieces at London Fashion Week in the upcoming month. She has also claimed one of the 200 spots at The Accessories Master Accelerator Program where the industry’s famous experts will mentor her for nine months and take her designs to the next level.




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