manitobah brand
(Photo/Manitobah)

Indigenous Footwear Brand Celebrates First Permanent Store in Canada

Manitobah, an Indigenous-led brand in Canada, offers winter footwear inspired by authentic Native traditions, especially soft boots and moccasins.

In just a few weeks, an Indigenous-owned footwear company will finally have an official store in its home base of Winnipeg, Canada.

The company started in 1997 as a small trading post, and has since grown into a global brand with customers around the world. Now one of Canada’s fastest-growing companies, Manitobah will host a grand opening on Sept. 10.

The company chose Winnipeg’s historic Forks Market for its first store, which will showcase the brand’s line of authentic Indigenous footwear. That includes many colorful styles of mukluks, moccasins, and “lifestyle footwear,” the company said.

manitobah store
A rendering of Manitobah’s upcoming store in Winnipeg; (photo/Manitobah)

Descended from First Nations people and French settlers, Métis entrepreneur Sean McCormick founded Manitobah. The demographic roots he established at the company will anchor the store, where all employees come from Canada’s Indigenous groups.

With 3,000 square feet of space, Manitobah’s first store aims to celebrate “Indigenous art, pride and resilience,” the company said.

The store will also serve as a community space to host workshops, activations, and beading circles. And shoppers can explore the store’s Indigenous Market, which showcases handmade items by Indigenous artisans.

manitobah store
(Photos/Manitobah)

For its grand opening, Manitobah will host performances from Indigenous singers, dancers, and musicians, as well as a blessing ceremony led by Indigenous elders.

Manitobah Continues History of Indigenous Footwear

For thousands of years, First Nations people have been wearing mukluks, or soft boots made from hide.

As Manitobah explains on its website, people first designed mukluks for “warmth and maneuverability in natural environments.” The word originates from the Yupik word maklak, meaning bearded seal — a crucial source of Aboriginal clothing.

snowy owl boots
A pair of Manitobah’s Waterproof Snowy Owl boots; (photo/Manitobah)

The Inuit and Yupik were the primary Aboriginal groups in the Arctic who wore mukluks (known as kamiks among the Inuit). In warmer, subarctic areas further south, Indigenous peoples used moccasins.

When Western explorers arrived, they adopted the footwear to help survive the wilderness. Over time, these Europeans also influenced changes to the shoes’ original design.

Indigenous women learned new sewing techniques and obtained new materials, incorporating them into the shoes. Access to ready-made fabrics simplified the shoe-making process. European fashions also brought changes, with the addition of colorful pom-poms, tassels, and delicate beading patterns.

But local traditions continued as well.

“Today, one can easily trace a decorated mukluk or moccasin back to its particular geographic home,” Manitobah wrote.

manitobah store
(Photo/Manitobah)

Modern Mukluks & Moccasins

Manitobah’s online store features a variety of stylish moccasins, boots (mukluks), and slippers. The company makes shoes for men, women, and children, plus gloves, bags, and other accessories.

Using deerskin, sheepskin, and leather, the store sells many varieties of winter-ready apparel. Examples include the Waterproof Snowy Owl, a cozy sheepskin boot meant to keep your feet warm in the harshest winters (they’re rated to -25 degrees Fahrenheit). They sell for $250.

The company also makes many styles of moccasins, like this fur-lined model made from deerskin. With an image of wheat etched on the front, these sell for $140.

Check out Manitobah’s online store to see its full collection.

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Andrew McLemore
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An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Cuenca, Ecuador, which he uses as a home base for adventures throughout the Americas. When he's not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he's hanging out with his dog Campana.