Mésdzįh Eskiye (Owl Boy) spreads his wings

Cohen Quash, the 14-year-old artist and designer behind Mésdzįh Eskiye Designs, has a smile that's contagious. When he publicly unveiled his new line of Besties sweatsuits to family and friends, he was beaming from ear to ear.

"I love waking up knowing that I get to do this," says Cohen. "I've noticed a lot of native beaders are getting out there. I want to be out there with them and bring back more Indigenous culture."

Cohen has Tahltan, Tlingit and Kaska ancestry. He named his Watson Lake-based business Mésdzįh Eskiye to connect his work to his family and his heritage. Mésdzįh means owl in Kaska, and eskiye means boy in Tahltan.

Cohen became interested in fashion when he was 11, and his mother purchased handmade items from Yukon First Nation designers. He was inspired by the beautiful intricate artwork, and he thought: This is what I want to do!

As Cohen's skills grew, he started to sell his beaded owl pendants in local shops. His pieces sold out quickly. In 2023, he became the youngest artist to have work accepted into the Yukon Permanent Art Collection, another amazing accomplishment for him!

Now at age 14, Cohen and his mother are working to expand his business. With support from CanNor, Cohen has mentored with experienced fashion designer Heather Dickson; had professional product photos taken; appeared as a featured designer at the Mat-Su 2024 Arctic Winter Games Indigenous Fashion Show; and launched his new product line of tie-dye inspired sweatsuits. Each hooded sweatshirt features a large print of one of his owl pendants.

CanNor's support for Mésdzįh Eskiye Designs through the Inclusive Diversification and Economic Advancement in the North (IDEANorth) Program will continue in 2024-25 with entrepreneurship training for Cohen, small capital purchases, such as an improved sewing machine, and support to attend more fashion shows to showcase his designs on larger stages.

"My dream is for my fashion line to be carried in stores across North America. After that, I want to be designing in Paris, Milan, and New York," he says.

Thankful for the support, mentorship and inspiration he's found in the Yukon, Cohen is also keen to help others follow their dreams.

"I will support anyone who wants to be like me," he says. "It's a lot of hard work, but it's going to be worth it."

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