Authentic streetwear made by Indigenous artists run as a social enterprise.
“I knew I needed a business when I got out of jail, I still needed to sell something. That’s how I’ve been surviving all these years. I stopped hanging out with the homies, went inside my cell and just literally studied.” Sean Rayland
While incarcerated Sean completed his mature grade 12. While doing his research he found the Social Innovation and Community Development program at Red River College. He applied for funding through his band, no one thought he would get it, but he got real lucky, received the funding and gained access to school.
He strongly connected to his culture through Elder Lionel Houston. They met at the Winnipeg Remand Centre and reconnected when Sean got out. They started going to ceremonies and sharing circles often.
“So now I’m working and going to school and doing ceremonies and I just merged it all together.” Sean Rayland
He had a message, social purpose, and a service subsidization business model.
Red Rebel Armour is streetwear that is comfortable, empowering, and rooted in culture. They sell sweaters, t-shirts, and joggers made with ethically sourced and eco-friendly materials. The graphic designs hold great meaning, you can find the detailed descriptions and stories behind the designs on their website. Most of the designs are made by the Indigenous tattoo artist Kale Bonham.
One of their most popular items is the Strawberry Sage Hoodie, available in Ognii Waande Pink, Wabajizii Grey, or Makade Black.
“The Strawberry Sage Hoodie is rooted in love, medicine, and healing. The gentle touch of grandmother moon glistening upon your face, the smell of sage burning reminds you of peace, and the bitter-sweet taste of strawberries fills your heart with unconditional love. Written by, Jaylee Govereau.”
The Social Good
Sean’s employee, Justin – Sean knew Justin from his past and they connected when he got out.
“Everything I learnt on the street I just applied to what I’m doing here.” Justin developed sales abilities before prison, then inventory management skills while working at the canteen in prison.
They were both concerned about getting negative attention if they teamed up, given their shared history. They’ve been together and strong for over six months now. Justin and his daughter reunited with full custody. He has been developing many skills and doing well since he got out. Justin’s mother and daughter are so happy and thankful for the opportunity that Sean gave him, but Sean gives all the credit right back to Justin. Their friendship and work relationship is quite lovely, sitting with the two of them feels like a really warm space.
Earlier the day we spoke, Sean and Justin sat with Justin’s parole officer, everyone shared how positive their work-life has been.
“They want to send more guys this way, but I don’t have the capacity for that.” Many people in the community ask Sean for help for themselves or loved ones to find a better job and path. He wants to build community and grow Red Rebel Armour, but he needs more security and supports to take more on.
Sean and Justin have already proven that adapting your skillset towards a new path can help you change directions and create new stability. Justin has started his own brand called “Real Ones” which created another revenue stream.
Sean wants to continue and expand on his path of self-determination.
“The true vision is just to see families be reunited.”
Sean’s future plans include branching out with more products, expanding the company to include more people, and to contribute to systemic change.
Find Red Rebel Armour:
And Kale Bonham