From the moment I watched ‘Mohawk Girls’, I knew it would be something I would immensely enjoy. The show, just entering its fourth season, revolves around four twenty-something Mohawk women (played by real Indigenous actresses!) going through normal, every day problems. However, instead of taking place in a big city, it’s on the Rez. Finding love isn’t so easy when you practically know everyone around you. And yes, there’s drama. Lots of it.
I had the pleasure of talking with ‘Mohawk Girls’ costume designer Janet Campbell, who has been working on the show since Season 3, about the show’s style, fashion, and the state of diversity in Canadian television.
divine.ca: Can you try and describe Anna, Bailey, Caitlin, and Zoe’s individual styles and what makes them different from each other?
Janet: Bailey is very casual and relaxed, while Zoe started more uptight in the early season, but as she started to gain more confidence, her style got a lot sexier while still fitting and flattering her body. The great thing about the show is that the girls’ body types aren’t the typical Hollywood, more like real women sizes… so everyone isn’t exactly a size zero. Caitlin is very colourful, bold, and brash. Anna has sort of been all over the place, but now that she’s also gaining more confidence, she’s really developed sort of a “Boho/Coachella” look to her.
divine.ca: Especially in Zoe’s case there’s been a few very risqué outfits, how fun has that been to create and explore with Brittany? And you had to custom make all her latex outfits.
Janet: There’s a few places we’ve gone in the past that we keep going back to, especially Il Bolero in Montreal. Now we focus on mostly off-the-rack pieces, but we did custom make some of the pieces in earlier seasons. What we do now is take [Brittany] to the store, and find pieces that she would be comfortable in. The worst thing you can have is an actress that is not comfortable in their costumes, so that was really important. The owner of Il Bolero really knows different body types, so that’s a really big help as well.
And Brittany is a trooper! She’s super easy and really sporty, so she has an amazing body. And that’s why they give her a lot of the physical comedy, because she’s just a natural.
divine.ca: So when you’re dealing with the actors on the show, is there a discussion on what they think is or isn’t comfortable or do they take whatever is given to them?
Janet: We absolutely have the discussion, and I think it’s really important! As a costume designer, I can’t say comedy is my forte – I work with regular clothes and make people look really natural. To do that, you’ve got to make sure the actors are comfortable in what they’re wearing and that it suits them. [Mohawk Girls] is a “dramedy”, so sometimes it has to push the boundaries a little bit.
divine.ca: On the complete opposite side, there’s been a few times where there’s been full regalia on the show.. did you create or consult on that as well?
Janet: I was! Obviously I didn’t make them myself, but what we did was hire Mohawk women to do Bailey’s regalia. They proposed the designs and colours and we sort of went from there. But they pretty much had free reign on everything, and they did such beautiful work. On our shoestring budget, we were so thankful for them.
divine.ca: I think it’s great that the show actually took Mohawk women’s input instead of hiring a bunch of white people to design the regalia, and that’s really appropriate.
Janet: Absolutely, and it all came from the co-creator of the show, Tracey Deer. And she knows what she’s doing and she knows how these women dress on an every day basis. The show is based in a small town [in Kahnawake, Quebec.] so everybody knows each other and in your business. The girls might dress a little edgier and sexier than they would somewhere like Montreal, so that was important and this is how it is there.
divine.ca: If you can describe ‘Mohawk Girls’ to someone who has never seen it before but is interested in seeing it, what would you say?
Janet: It’s definitely like ‘Sex in the City’ on the Rez.
divine.ca: The style is certainly different, but the dynamic is just the same.
Janet: Absolutely! Especially since we’re all shopping online now, and many Canadian retailers such as Mexx and Jacob are closed. That makes it a lot harder.
divine.ca: So having worked in the design world in Canada for some time now, do you think it’s harder to shop for pieces now than it was a decade ago?
Janet: Places such as H&M and Forever 21, even Simons… they all carry the same stuff. We really have to work hard to go out and find original pieces, so it’s definitely a challenge, but a lot of fun!
‘Mohawk Girls’ airs on Tuesdays at 9:30PM EST on APTN. Check your local listings.
Catch all previous episodes by going to www.mohawkgirls.com.