National Indigenous History Month: Aaniin Retail Inc.'s Journey to Online Fashion

National Indigenous History Month: Aaniin Retail Inc.'s Journey to Online Fashion

June 12, 2024 By: Niyati Budhiraja Calculating time...

National Indigenous History Month is a time to celebrate and recognize the rich history, heritage, resilience, and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

Aaniin Retail Inc. is a Toronto-based company that's making waves in the fashion industry for showcasing and empowering Indigenous designers.

Aaniin Retail Inc. isn't your average clothing store. Founded by Chelsee-Marie Pettit in 2021, Aaniin began as a bold idea and blossomed from a streetwear brand into a loved online store.

Chelsee-Marie, an Ojibwe member of Aamjiwnaang First Nations, was struck by the lack of Indigenous representation in mainstream fashion. 

National Indigenous History Month- Aaniin Retail Inc.'s Journey to Online Fashion

“I thought I saw somebody wearing Indigenous syllabics on their clothing, and I felt the sense of inclusivity I'd never felt before living in the city. But as I got closer, I realized it was just a triangle, which sparked the idea to start an Indigenous streetwear brand that uses syllabics as the main design focus. I named it Aaniin because Aaniin means ‘Hello’ in Anishinaabe, which is the language that the Ojibwe people use. I want to start the conversation on Indigenous languages and create visibility for Indigenous people across Canada, 365 days a year,” Chelsee-Marie told the “Yes, We Are Open” podcast.

Aaniin's early designs weren't just about aesthetics; they were conversation starters. By incorporating QR codes into the designs, Chelsee-Marie aimed to bridge the gap between cultures, allowing customers to learn more about the Anishinaabemowin language with a quick scan.

Recognizing the potential for wider reach, Aaniin quickly transitioned beyond its physical store in the Stackt market. Their online store, became a vibrant hub showcasing not just Aaniin's own creations but the work of over 30 other Indigenous designers.

National Indigenous History Month- Aaniin Retail Inc.'s Journey to Online Fashion

“The whole triangle story happened on a Sunday afternoon, and by Wednesday, I had an entire drop shipping website up and running to test out my idea that people would be interested in seeing Indigenous syllabics on the clothing. In our first week, we sold $3,000 right away. I didn't have a social media following and wasn't running ads. I just put my experience of the triangle story on a post on Facebook and Instagram, and it was widely shared. We had 70 customers on our first day. I was expecting to have maybe 15 to 20 people,” told Chelsee-Marie to the “Yes, We Are Open” podcast.

This shift to online retail wasn't just about convenience. Aaniin's online platform empowers Indigenous artists and businesses across Canada. It provides a space for them to showcase their work and connect directly with a wider audience, ensuring profits go back to the creative force behind each piece.

“I think it's an amazing opportunity for these vendors to have more presence because some of the vendors that we carry have a small following. Most of them are small businesses or doing this part-time. It is really beautiful that we are able to empower small Indigenous businesses from across Canada,” said Chelsee-Marie.

Aaniin's journey is a testament to the power of the internet to break down barriers and empower marginalized voices. What began as a streetwear brand with a message has evolved into a thriving online marketplace, fostering economic opportunities and cultural appreciation within the Indigenous fashion industry.

National Indigenous History Month- Aaniin Retail Inc.'s Journey to Online Fashion

“I just felt like it was so cool that somebody thinks that indigenous languages were cool enough to wear in Downtown Toronto. Because I love the look of syllabics, it was amazing to think that other people would enjoy them to the extent that they'd wear them daily. I knew that there was some sort of market that was not tapped into. Who else can do something like this? If another brand does it, it's pretty much cultural appropriation. This to me is such a solid way to give back to Indigenous people living in the city, and artists that are inside of the space, and support Indigenous businesses. People go out of their way to support made in Canada or sustainable products, but this is a new sector that's not even tapped into yet,” said Chelsee-Marie.

The next time you're looking for unique fashion with a story, head over to Aaniin's online store. You'll discover a treasure trove of Indigenous design talent, all while supporting a movement changing the face of fashion, one design at a time.

We’re proud to call Aaniin Retail Inc. a Moneris merchant. To learn more about Aaniin Retail Inc., click here to listen to our podcast.

Article filed under:

merchant spotlight


Recommended Articles

The Moneris Merchant Scoop: The Orchard Group

Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Joe Pilotte has worked in the city’s club and bar scene for as long as he can remember. It was the catalyst to his career in the restaurant industry, and it eventually led to his role at the Ye Olde Orchard Pub and Grill in 2005, now known as the Orchard Group.