The first word in Christian Allaire’s book is aanin, which means hello, or welcome, in Ojibway. The Power of Style’s underlying ethos, that everyone is welcome, is expressed through a visually dynamic mix of profiles, tutorials, fashion history, DIY projects and interviews with an array of international talents who are using fashion as a tool for activism, diversity, inclusivity and empowerment.
For Allaire, who grew up on the Nipissing First Nation reservation near Sturgeon Falls, Ont., and now works as American Vogue’s fashion and style writer, it’s important to encourage people to look at fashion through a cultural lens. “That was sort of the main ‘why’ for me making this book – because I wish I would have had something like this,” he says. Although Allaire was a fashion-obsessed teen, “I never even thought of fashion as a vessel to express where you come from or who you are.”
Allaire began his career while studying at Ryerson University in Toronto. Internships at Flare magazine and Interview led to a fashion editor position at Footwear News in New York. Eventually, weekends spent freelancing for Vogue.com helped land him his current role, a beat where he regularly covers Indigenous artists and creatives.
The Power of Style may not centre on Allaire’s personal style journey, but he sets the book’s tone by sharing it. “It was important to introduce myself and introduce people to my culture,” he says. Its first chapter recounts the process of his mother and aunts crafting him a ribbon shirt that honours his ancestors. After breaking down how the finished garment is imbued with both personal and cultural significance, he profiles Indigenous designers, including Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock artist Jamie Okuma, who are creating contemporary interpretations of ribbon work.
He found many of the book’s subjects through social media and gave them an opportunity to tell their story. In his experience, “people want that connection” and relatable personal narratives resonate more than ever today.
The book’s approach democratizes fashion by giving everyone a voice and including elements of the fashion industry that are rarely included in discussions of designer clothes. A chapter on cosplay, for example, features firsthand accounts from young women who are challenging strict rules that often require cosplayers to have the same body type and gender as the character they’re portraying. Allaire’s subjects also dive into modest style, acne positivity and men in heels.
Fashion is a form of storytelling, he says. “The choices you make when you’re getting dressed in the morning can really inform people about yourself. And I didn’t get that when I was younger.” Allaire urges readers of all ages to consider how style can express their own stories and think about it for a larger purpose. “I hope people open their eyes and see how fashion can be more.”
The Power of Style, $19.95, at bookstores and online on April 27.