Warren Steven Scott’s earrings aren’t just accessories—they’re instant outfit-makers. The 30-year-old Indigenous Canadian, who is based in Toronto but from the Nlaka’pamux Nation in British Columbia, designs shapely baubles that spotlight his Coast Salish culture in an ultramodern way. His graphic creations certainly come at a good moment, considering Marine Serre’s shoulder-grazing feathers and Paco Rabanne’s dangling gems, not to mention the profusion of statement earrings on the street. The season’s It piece is meant to hang prettily off of one’s lobes, but Scott’s creations are far more than mere ear candy.
Scott is one of many North American Indigenous designers recontextualizing their cultural signposts with the craftsmanship skills their forebears have perfected for centuries. “I was really looking for a way to incorporate the fundamental designs and motifs of the Pacific Northwest, particularly that of my ancestors, the Coast Salish people,” he says. “It started with the ovoid, crescent, and triagon [shapes]—elements that are repeated and adapted in Salish carvings and paintings. I also played with positive and negative space in designing these earrings, which is another cornerstone of Salish design.” He was particularly inspired by Coast Salish carvings of bears, eagles, and salmon, as well as various totem poles he found at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, which feature both Salish and Haida carvings.
His statement designs are meant to be genderless—“for anyone with pierced ears,” he says—and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from clear chandeliers to colorful organic shapes. (They currently retail for $70 on his website.) First, he creates a digital file that serves as a marker, then he has the pieces laser-cut from acrylic and sterling silver at a studio in downtown Toronto. From there, he hand-assembles the earrings in his own home studio. “I try not to waste any of the scrap pieces created from the laser cutting, so some of the earrings have been created from some of the leftover pieces of the original designs,” he says. Of course, eco-mindedness lies at the core of all Indigenous design; many designers approach their relationship with materials from a more spiritual level and make sure to minimize waste throughout the construction process.
The formation of his brand identity actually began in 2018, when he launched a ready-to-wear line two years after graduating from Ryerson University’s fashion design program. Last May, he showed his first womenswear collection at the inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto (IFWTO). “[The collection] was inspired by old photographs from the ’50s to the ’70s that captured everyday life of Indigenous people on and off reserves, particularly those by Rosemary Eaton,” he says of the clothes, which included some nightgown-style dresses, something Scott says Indigenous women would wear in the ’50s. “These were more authentic depictions of Indigenous people rather than some ethnographic images that exist, which dress up or ornamentalize the subject to look more stereotypically Indigenous.”