Meet the First Nations Fashion Designer Set on Pushing Diversity in Canadian Media

Lesley Hampton joins forces with Canada’s new inclusive campaign, Every Woman.

Lesley Hamptonphoto credit: Billie Chiasson

Known for creating an inclusive womenswear fashion line, Lesley Hampton, just 24-years-old, is set on changing the Canadian fashion industry’s beauty standards for the next-generation. That’s why when Jess Lewis, the producer behind the empowering Straight/Curve documentary asked Hampton to be part of her newest movement, the Every Woman campaign in support of The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), she jumped at the chance. The idea behind the campaign is to “take a bold stance against exclusive beauty ideals and how damaging they can be to their target audience, namely women and young girls,” says Lewis.

Invited to represent a First-Nations-curvy-girl in the campaign, Hampton proudly expressed the importance of the rawness that is presented in the unretouched images. “That’s the reality; That’s our bodies; You’re seeing them exactly how we are,” she says with utter gratitude over the phone. “There’s no tokenism in this campaign — all different women from different aspects of life coming together to push diversity — showing that we can do it in Canadian media,” she explains.

From professional models to everyday women who are all of different ages, body types, backgrounds, and with every “imperfection” imaginable, the diverse cast represents the idea that every woman deserves to be heard. (Find out how this body-positive influencer is redefining the postpartum body.) Here, Hampton shares her hope for the campaign and why she’s set on helping push diversity in Canadian media.

EVERY WOMAN CAMPAIGN ????????????????????????????????????????at the @gladstonehotel on August 1! ・・・#thebigpicture #everywomancampaign #iamtheeverywoman Celebrating #Diversity – Every Woman Campaign ???? Production & Creative @justjesslewis Talent @sharanguru @ptamagnolia @kneelbeforeyou1 @winifredoffthemat @sydneysarayeva @karynindermodel @insidelight @breebeexox @lesley_hampton @lesleyyz @charlotteannas @bnmmodels Hair / MUA @_helenkenny @ronnietremblay Assistants @the.facecollector @melanie.hairstylist Wardrobe Provided By @knixwear Wardrobe Stylist @miss_albano Photographer @billiechiasson Assistant @vedafaye Video coverage @vicecanada @anubhamomin #diversity #fashion #toronto #indigenouswomen #representation #allbodies #wolfpackstrong #lesleyhampton #unretouched

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Her hope for the campaign

Hampton hopes the campaign will help motivate young girls and women to take on their dreams and feel comfortable doing so. “It’s for that twelve-year-old-girl, who’s discovering herself for the first time, to be scrolling through Instagram or flipping through a magazine and really see herself in the images,” she says. It’s her strong passion for a diverse representation in the fashion industry through her own brand that leads her to believe change is possible.

When she started her eponymous brand in 2016, Hampton saw first-hand on a student-of-fashion-basis how much diversity wasn’t included within the education of fashion. “We were all designing on a size 4 or 6 mannequin,” she says, which is what prompted her to target bodies of all sizes in her line. And then, specifically, she recalls an example of resistance towards diversity at a runway show she showed at: “Certain curvy models were stopped at the backstage entrance and questioned as to why they were there because they ‘didn’t look like a model,’” she says. “They had to say my name a few times in order to be allowed in.” It has been instances like this that have made her grow uncomfortable with the industry.

Now a model herself (recently signed to inclusive agency, B&M Models) — and straying from that typical tall-and-thin ideal our society has deemed the norm — she is set on putting that standard to bed and promoting diversity any way she can.

Through bringing curvy models, amputees, and women with alopecia to the runway, she really hopes to continue to show a greater representation of our society. At the end of the day, she insists, “we shouldn’t be looking up to something that’s improbable, we should be looking up to something that represents us and helps us feel more comfortable.”

Why the connection between mental health and media is so important

With the campaign in support of CAMH, Hampton brings up the importance of recognizing the link between mental health and media. “I think it’s important because we’re exposed to the media every day, whether you want to be exposed to it or not,” she says. “If we can change what is being shown to us, with more of a representation of the bodies that we’re seeing, it will definitely help our mental health by showing the next generation that they don’t have to do anything to change their bodies to fit a certain beauty norm.”

And even though it’s been a slow push, she believes there is no better time to take mental health and body image to the next level.

Next, read up on why this young Hijabi YouTube sensation is the face of her generation.